Much has been written about Ryszard Kapuściński,  foreign correspondent and writer on international politics for the weekly review Polityka.  His life and work has been unique.  He was called the witness of the twentieth century. Soon after his death, on May 2007, the Polish edition of Newsweek magazine revealed that he worked for the Communist Polish secret service from 1965 to 1972 or 1977, and that he had reported on several of his colleagues. Accusations of inaccuracies and implausible situations have been many.  But as Artur Domoslawski, the author of the book, Ryszard Kapuściński: Where does journalism end and literature begin?

... Kapuściński’s style derived from a school of reportage particular to communist Poland, which was heavily censored at the time.  .... The reporters changed the names of the people in order to [protect] them, they created fictional characters. From the perspective of the free world you can say that is absolutely unacceptable in journalism.

Still, Kapuściński  is the one that gave voices to the voiceless. Diligent in his reporting, and a great storyteller, he was constantly wandered between journalism and literature. With his allegories, the beautiful poetic descriptions and his gripping narratives, he  created a style which was described by Adam Hochschild as ‘magic journalism’.


From his essay “The Road to Kumasi” in the book The Cobra’s Heart

“The European and the African have an entirely different concept of time, In the European worldview, time exists objectively, and has measurable and linear characteristics. According to Newton, time is absolute:” Absolute, true, mathematical time of itself and from its own nature, if flows equably and without relation to anything external.”  The European feel himself to be time’s slave, dependent on it, subject to it. To exist and function, he must observe its iron-clad, inviolate laws, its inflexible principles  and rules. He must heed deadlines, dates, days, and hours. He moves within the rigours of time and cannot exist outside them, They impose upon him their requirements and quotas. An unresolvable conflict exists between men and time, one that always ends with man’s defeat – time annihilates him.

Africans apprehend time differently. For them, it is a much loser concept, more open, elastic subjective. It is man who influences time, its shape, course and rhythm. Time is even something that man can create outright, for time is made manifest through events, and whether an event takes place or not depends, after all,on man alone.

Time appears as a result of our actions, and vanishes when we neglect or ignore it. It is something that springs to life under our influence, but falls into a state of hibernation, even nonexistence, if we do not direct our energy toward it, It is subservient, passive essence and, most importantly, one dependent on man.

The absolute opposite of time as it is understood in the European worldview.

In practical terms, this mean that if you go to a village where a meeting is scheduled for the afternoon and find no one at the appointed spot, asking, “When will the meeting take place?” makes no sense. You know the answer: “It will take place when the people come.”