The Emperor, R.I.P.


The great Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski died last night at age 74. It's a big loss; Kapuscinski hadn't lost any of his skills, and had just wrapped a book that will come out later this year. As Michael Kaufman's obiturary reminds us, he was more than an indespensible historian of the Shah of Iran, Haile Selassi, and Idi Amin. He was also, as anyone who saw so many wrecked societies must be, an anti-Communist.

In 1981, after he had committed himself to the Solidarity trade union movement, the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski stripped him of his journalistic credentials. He then began working with underground publishers, contributing poems and supporting the dissident culture.

Eventually, as his reputation abroad grew, foreign royalties and commissions enabled him to move to his own house in central Warsaw.

Most of Kapuscinski's books are in print and inexpensive. It's a little harder to find his Soviet Union epitaph Imperium, but it's worth it.