Sunday, March 2, 2008
The Shadow of the Sun
Ryszard Kapuscinski's The Shadow of the Sun is one of the most illuminating books to be written about Africa. Immense in its depth, and profound in its understanding, Kapuscinski writes with a journalist's flair. He merely doesn't report though - but transports the reader to this vast continent that sadly now we know only for pictures of starving children haunted by bloodthirsty vultures.
I hate the sun. I love sunshine but its heat as I know it almost kills me here in India. In Africa though, it is much worse...so much so that I suddenly felt glad that I face temperatures of only 33 Degrees Celsius out here.
“In reality, the sun comes out as if it were a ball catapulted into the air. We suddenly see a fiery sphere, so near to us that we can’t help experiencing a frisson of fear. ... It’s as if all night long everyone was crouching on his starter’s blocks and now, at that shot of sunlight ... the streets are full of people, the shops are open, the fires and kitchens are smoking."
Kapuscinski first arrived in Africa in 1957, and made many periodic visits there. Compiling all his observations into this massive work - he weaved an exorable tapestry of a land that was foreign to me. I was just stunned into awe at this book - he writes from a predominantly European perpective and there has been criticism about a perceived lack of guilt and consciousness about his region's role in the African chaos. There was just one passage that made no sense to me - and which to me seemed about the only time that Kapuscinski seemed all European-upper class - a description of a train ride to Senegal with a certain Madame Diuf. But nay, I am not going to crib. This book is a classic. Read it for in it lies Africa, well, as much as can be called Africa.