Sunday, February 23, 2014

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 275
Rating: 5/5

     From the master of literary reportage whose acclaimed books include Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, and The Shadow of the Sun, an intimate account of his first youthful forays beyond the Iron Curtain.
     Just out of university in 1955, Kapuscinski told his editor that he'd like to go abroad.  Dreaming no farther than Czechoslovakia, the young reporter found himself sent to India.  Wide-eyed and captivated, he would discover in those days his life's work - to understand and describe the world in its remotest reaches, in all its multiplicity.  From the rituals of sunrise at Persepolis to the incongruity of Louis Armstrong performing before a stone-faced crowd in Khartoum, Kapuscinski gives us the non-Western world as he first say it, though still-virginal Western eyes.
     The companion on his travels, a volume of Herodotus, a gift from his first boss.  Whether he was in China, Poland, Iran or the Congo, it was the "father of history" - and, as Kapuscinski would realize, of globalism - who helped the young correspondent to make sense of the events, to find the story where it did not obviously exist.  It is this great forerunner's spirit - both supremely worldly and innately Occidental - that would continue to whet Kapuscinski's ravenous appetite for discovering the broader world and that has made him our own indispensable companion on any leg of that perpetual journey.

In Travels with Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski explains his intimate relationship with the ancient Greek writer Herodotus.  When Kapuscinski embarked upon his first trip overseas, his boss handed him a copy of Herodotus's Histories.  When shocked and overwhelmed by India, Kapuscinski retreats into Herodotus's writings.  In this historic text, Kapuscinski finds a deep appreciation for the world.  Herodotus, alive in 400 BCE, wished to write down the history of all people regardless of pertinence.  He gave the Persians and Greeks the same amount of care and attention as the Scythians and Phoenicians.  Kapuscinski, inspired by Herodotus's view and dedication to history bring the book, and the reader, along with him to various nations and provides thoughtful insight on the passage of time, history, and people.  Full of quotes from Herodotus's Histories, Travels with Herodotus is both a memoir and great introduction to the ancient work.

This became one of my favorite books ever within the first 50 pages.  I actually picked up other books and set this book down simply because I didn't want it to end.  Travels with Herodotus did a great job of weaving different cultures and time periods together to take the reader on basically a whirlwind tour of the ancient Mediterranean and various places Kapuscinski has visited.  I really loved seen the common trends between each population.  I find the similarities between people and cultures really interesting so this book captured my interest right from the start and never let go.  I actually plan to go out and buy this book as soon as I can because I know I will want to reread this book multiple times.  If you like memoirs, history or culture I would definitely suggest checking out this book!

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