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The Emperor (edition 1989)
The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuściński
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679722033, Paperback)Haile Selassie, His Most Puissant Majesty and Distinguished Highness the Emperor of Ethiopia, enjoyed a 44-year reign until his own army gave him the boot in 1974. In the days following the coup, the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski traveled to Ethiopia and sought out members of the imperial court for interviews.
His composite portrait of Selassie's crumbling imperium is an astonishing, wildly funny creation, beginning with the very first interview. "It was a small dog," recalls an anonymous functionary, "a Japanese breed. His name was Lulu. He was allowed to sleep in the Emperor's great bed. During various ceremonies, he would run away from the Emperor's lap and pee on dignitaries' shoes. The august gentlemen were not allowed to flinch or make the slightest gesture when they felt their feet getting wet. I had to walk among the dignitaries and wipe the urine from their shoes with a satin cloth. This was my job for ten years." (Well, it's a living.)
Elsewhere, the interviewees venture into tragic or grotesque or downright unbelievable terrain. Kapuscinski has shaped their testimonies into an eloquent whole, and while he never alludes to the totalitarian regime that ruled his native Poland during the same period, the analogy is impossible to ignore.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:03 -0400)
While Ethiopia collapsed around him in 1975, Kapuscinski travelled throughout the country listening to stories of the recently dead Supreme Emperor Haile Selassie by the servants and associates that had surrounded him. The Polish journalist transforms these interviews into a powerful narrative of high living and unimaginable abuse by the ancient regime.
(summary from another edition)
An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.
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