A new biography of one of my fav writers of all time, Ryszard Kapuscinski, claims he may have embroidered the truth a little in his writing. Well, duh. He may have worked his life as a stringer for Polish news outlets in some of the roughest and most interesting terrain, in the parts of the world most people wouldn’t want to stop in the airports of, but that isn’t what makes him compulsively readable. Reportage can be extremely underwhelming. What he does is not reportage.
I’m a slave to his writing, actually. It’s that good. Not for the facts, but for the poetry, the control of all elements, the lack of cant. And that’s just in translation. If I read Polish I might have to kill myself. He’s a master of vignette, of wheeling chaos and stillness.
I’ve never articulated it to myself before, but I had no expectation that events occured exactly as he described them, any more than I would expect to be able to use In Patagonia as a Lonely Planet guidebook. Do I find Chatwin truthful? Yes. I just don’t believe everything he says.
Please read Kapuscinski. I want to know what you think of him.