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Book Review: Imperium, by Ryszard Kapuściński
Sitting somewhere in-between journalism and travel writing, this is a collection based on Kapuściński's experiences of Soviet Russia. The first chapter deals with the 1939 invasion of eastern Poland, and though undated, is clearly written as a remembrance of a past event. The remainder of the book is (presumably) written contemporaneously with the events described. The second and third chapters are write-ups of trips to the USSR in the 1950s and 1960s, portraying different places and nations in the less familiar parts of the Soviet Union, venturing into Siberia, central Asia, and the Caucasus. With hindsight, it's possible to sense that there is as much in these writings in what goes unsaid, as well as what is committed to paper, and though the writing does not shy away from criticizing the authorities on occasion, it's not possible to decide whether that might have been officially sanctioned or encouraged. Most of the book, however, focuses on Kapuściński's travels in 1989-91, and is clearly more relaxed in tone, if not in content. Light relief appears from time to time in the form of quotidian absurdity recognizable from Daniil Kharms' Incidences; however there is also darker material, particularly in the telling of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in a clandestine trip into Nagorno-Karabakh.
Tags: books, history
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