Polish foreign correspondent Kapuciski (Another Day of Life, 1986) gives his recollections of Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East in this stark, compelling memoir of life in the vortex of modern history. From 1958 to 1976, Kapuciski, a journalist attached to the Polish press agency, moved through some of the most troubled regions of the postwar world. During the Congolese uprisings of 1960, the Algerian coup of 1965, the five-day ``Soccer War'' (ostensibly fought over a football match) between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969-everywhere, he found himself confronted by ``this strange world'' of peoples and nations trapped in the momentum of politics, a momentum that he could not escape himself. In the Congo he was taken for a spy, imprisoned, and very nearly executed; on the back roads of Nigeria he ran afoul of rebel troops, who robbed, beat, and attempted to immolate him. Kapuciski's tone throughout is quick, deft, understated, and manages vividly to convey the sense of overwhelming strangeness, of disorientation that a foreigner would experience in such settings. He succeeds also in nearly outlining the political and historical forces at work in each locale, and in the careers of the leaders of the time: Nkrumah in Ghana, Lumumba in the Congo, Ben Bella in Algeria-''the children of storms and pressures, born of the longings and desires not only of their own countries but of the whole continent.'' The narrative is impressionistic, almost meditative at times-as when the author,arriving in Chile after nearly ten years in Africa, contemplates the bric-a-brac in his furnished rooms and speculates upon the meaning of such collections. The final scene, in which Kapuciski, stranded in Ghana, is asked by a group of villagers to describe life in Poland, has a strongly elegiac tone, building upon those notions of homeland and exile evoked throughout the book. Exciting and profound: a fascinating account of history in the present tense, told with great skill and careful irony.
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