The Emperor- Ryszard Kapuściński


This book contains accounts from those close to Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie. It chronicles Selassie’s opulent lifestyle and his subsequent downfall. It speaks to the undoing of African leaders. I’ve always been intrigued by Selassie and was interested to know more about him.

The Emperor is a very dramatic account of Selassie’s and I did get a slightly clearer idea of who Selassie was. He was very progressive in many ways, and he was quite eccentric as well. Overall he was painted as quite the despot in this book, something I’d never really heard been said about him

Kapuscinski managed to interview those close to the emperor, albeit anonymously, and put their thoughts into this book. However, the accounts sounded too fictional to me. That’s not necessarily bad but  I was looking for something more substantial and something that didn’t sound so one-sided.

I also felt that the book didn’t have a logical start; I expected everything to go chronologically, from start to finish.  Perhaps this is my own error for having a wrong idea about what this book was trying to do.

In my opinion, Kapuscinski is better suited to write short anecdotes and make anthropological observations while on his reporting assignments. I’d really enjoyed Kapuscinski’s last book, The Shadow of the Sun, and had thought this would be just as enjoyable. I feel that someone like Emperor  Selassie (and roads are named after him all around Africa after all) is deserving of a more factual, in-depth, properly-documented account. I wanted to know why he is so revered in the Rastafarian community for example, but this account didn’t go into that.

This book whetted my appetite for learning more about Selassie and Ethiopia. It was hard for me to accept the content as the Ethiopian people I know speak highly of Selassie. So many questions, not enough answers


3 thoughts on “The Emperor- Ryszard Kapuściński

  1. Interesting. He sounds like a fascinating man. I felt vaguely the same about Garcia Marquez’ non-biographical story of General Simon Bolivar, titled The General In His Labyrinth. A man who probably deserves a richer biographical account of his glory days, but whose retelling via Garcia Marquez stoked my interest in South American politics.

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