Truth and ... that other stuff
I don't know where The Emperor, Kapuściński's retrospective look at the downfall of Ethiopia's Haile Selassie, fits in that controversy. It looks to me as if Kapuściński may gradually have abandoned the pretense of reportage over the course of the book.
Who could possibly believe that anyone really said
"A kind of mania seized this mad and unpredictable world, my friend: a mania for development. Everybody wanted to developed himself! ... Yet our Empire had existed for hundreds, even thousands of years without any noticeable development and all the while its leaders were respected, venerated, worshiped. The Emperors Zera Jakob, Towodros, Johannes all were worshiped. And who would ever have gotten it into his head to press his face in front of the Emperor and beg to be developed?"as Kapuściński has an interlocutor say in the book's middle chapter, "It's Coming, It's Coming"? (The first chapter is called "The Throne," the last "The Collapse." That should you give you an idea of how things end.)
Yet the comedy is frequently shot through with acid-tongued reminders that the lives of a country and its people are at stake, and with plausible diagramming of a revolution's progress.
Debates about journalistic ethics in America tend to become shrill, puritanical, and, when the debaters are in the newspaper business, desperately and self-laceratingly so, and I can't stand that sort of thing when I'm out of the office. So, what should readers do if they want to read Kapuściński in good conscience? I'm just one book into my Kapuściński-reading career, but I think one could do worse than to start with an observation from the Economist quoted in Wikipedia's Kapuściński article:
"[Kapuściński] creates an Africa of his own. It is a fascinating place. Whether it ever existed as he tells it is another matter altogether."© Peter Rozovsky 2012