New Internationalist

The Other

January 2009

by Ryzard Kapuscinski

There are probably few better placed to examine ‘the Other’ than the wandering Polish journalist Ryzard Kapuscinski. After all, until his death in 2007, he spent decades excavating the world, taking risks with his stories and subjects and living a life that more than most was dependent on the kindness of strangers. Verso has brought together a series of recently translated reflections and talks by a writer whose eloquence and empathy brought to life the European ‘Other’, from the crowds of Tehran to the remote reaches of the Congo. He covered the Global South with both sympathy and depth, ranging from the tragically ludicrous soccer war between El Salvador and Honduras, to the last days of Ethiopia’s final monarch in what is probably his best work, The Emperor. These last writings in The Other can be seen as a sort of testimony to the world from a man who usually resisted dealing in generalities.

Not for Kapuscinski the easy clichés of glib globalization or the facile political correctness that marks so much Left academic literature on how we regard ‘Others’ and how they regard us back. Kapuscinski is all about depth and context. Within these he brings together the impossible difficulties but absolute necessity of putting yourself in the shoes of The Other. And he never lets the reader lose the sense that to someone else we are all ‘The Other’.

Richard Swift

This column was published in the January 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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