The original existential journalist and the greatest reporter of our time died last night at a Warsaw hospital. Ryszard Kapuscinski was 74. As Poland’s only foreign African correspondent in the 60s and 70s he covered the continent’s transition from European colonies to often brutal dictatorships via coup, civil war and bloody revolution (he personally witnessed 27 revolutions). He wrote masterworks of literary journalism on the Iranian Revolution, the coup that deposed Haile Selassie, the Angolan Civil War, the soccer war between Honduras and El Salvador and many works that sadly have not been translated into English. Kapuscinski, a brilliant student of history, was probably the luckiest reporter in the business, narrowly avoiding death and execution with harrowing escapes on countless occasions. His books were filled with beautiful prose tinged with the sort of magical realism associated with his good friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He often complained that his contemporaries–who grew rich and fat in their tenured university posts writing dull angst-ridden novels–were missing the real stories of our time. He was right. His latest book, Travels with Herodotus, will come out this June.
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