Friday, August 1, 2014

Nonfiction RC #3

I read this book for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2014 reading challenge 2014.

Travels with Herodotus - Ryszard Kapuściński, tr. Klara Glowczewska

Hey, I read The Odyssey in early 2014 so I’m not up to the 700+ pages of The Histories of Herodotus (c. 484-425 BCE ), even though I like books with a Mediterranean setting. I found an ideal guide in this mediation on history and travel by Poland’s most notable journalist and travel writer. In this memoir, Kapuściński intersperses his own experiences with those of Herodotus, who also wanted to cross borders and see what is beyond his own country.

Kapuściński summarizes the Persian Wars as told by the Greek historian. He alternates those summaries with tales of his own trips to India, China, and various African countries such as Zaire, Algeria, Sudan, and Senegal in the late Fifties and early Sixties. He concludes that the nationalisms and orthodoxies of today’s conflicts are nothing new and neither are politicians’ lies and the tendency for people, or crowds, or mobs, to be duped much more readily than a person, an individual, is fooled.

Kapuściński speculates on personality of the ancient traveler, Herodotus, who wanted to discover and understand other peoples and customs. He must have been curious and felt the the humility of one who narrates history while fully knowing that his version may not correspond to actual events. He realizes information is passed down in oral tradition is liable to distortion. The historian and the journalist who write the first draft of history put it on paper so as not to not allow common memory to lapse. The ancient historian and modern journalist also draw conclusions from conflicting information in order to determine which causes and effects are most plausible.

Born in 1932, Kapuściński was a wartime kid in the European country that was most damaged by World War II. In his university days in the early Fifties, education was spotty so Kapuściński realized he had to study on this own in order to understand the world. In a 2001 interview Kapuściński said, “Journalists must deepen their anthropological and cultural knowledge and explain the context of events. They must read.”

1 comment:

  1. I almost picked this book up at the library last weekend. Now, after reading your review I'm going to have to.