Peter Englund, writing in the Financial Times emphasizes Domosławksi’s revelations about Kapuściński’s affiliation with the communist party in Poland- an aspect of his life that Kapuściński never addressed publicly, "instead choosing to gloss over his background. It didn’t fit the image of that brave teller of uncomfortable truths …"
"Domosławksi provides perspective both on Kapuściński’s enduring membership of the communist party and his much more fleeting engagements for Polish Intelligence, and he leaves you with a sense of what went on in the head of this man."Moving on to one of the other revelations of the book, Englund draws out Kapuściński’s emphasis on the importance of the ‘essence’ of the story, as opposed to the objective truth, noting that Domosławksi even regards, "the well-known figure of Ryszard Kapuściński’ as one of Kapuściński’s literary achievements." On the subject of literary achievements, Englund reveals that:
"Kapuściński was often mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature – and, as a member of the body that awards it, I can say he came very close indeed."
Finally, though, he emphasises the achievements of his biographer:
“This insightful book reminds us that we reveal ourselves too in our evasions and confabulations and indeed, that the distortions of reality are an important part of the image of reality."
This week Artur Domoslawski’s Ryszard Kapuściński: A Life featured as the Independent’s Book of the Week and was also reviewed in the Observer.
Marek Kohn, writing in the Independent, focuses on one of the most compelling revelations of the book that,
It remains clear that whatever else [Kapuściński] may have been, he really was a communist.
Thus he points out that, as a reporter, ‘he was neither neutral nor independent’, concealing information when it clashed with his ideological aims such as the fact that:
In Angola he learned that Cubans were assisting the leftist MPLA, a development that could have provoked Western intervention, but kept quiet about it.
The lesson is to keep your heroes at a distance. The sheen they acquire rubs off under a too-close inspection of their lives. One could say that Domosławski's predicament as biographer is the stuff of fiction: admiring protégé sets out to write a sympathetic biography, uncovers unpleasant facts about his idol, damages the reputation of the man he hoped to immortalize.The biography details the life and work of its legendary subject, but, as Smith acknowledges, it also analyzes journalism as a profession and its effects on Kapuściński's self-image:
Domosławski relates a telling anecdote that perhaps holds the key to Kapuściński's inferiority: In a conversation between Kapuściński and a successful poet, the poet remembered Kapuściński lowering his head and saying, "You are a poet in the Polish Writer's Union, but I'm just a journalist."Visit Bookforum to read the review in full.