Ryszard Kapuściński - Another Day of Life (Jeszcze dzień życia)
A few years ago I listened in awe to an excerpt from Another Day of Life on an Italian online radio focused on books.
As those pages revolving around a sieged Luanda were beautiful and poignant, I got interested in adding up another Kapuscinski to my increasing lot.
Then I moved abroad and as I had read all of my Kapuscinskis in Italian translation purchasing one of his books in English didn't seem quite right. Back to Italy for a stopover inbetween the UK and Poland I've finally bought the long-awaited book and promptly started to read it.
Now that I'm done with Another Day of Life, I must confess that I'm slightly disappointed by it. Unlike what happens in most of the reportage books by Kapuscinski, here I felt like something crucial was missing: clarity.
The reasons and the main forces behind the Civil War (following a long Independence War) in Angola the great Polish reporter followed and lived in during the 1970s are - to say the least - blurred and confusing for the readers of today. In this respect I feel very much like your average Mr Brown / Kowalski / Rossi here.
I know where Angola is. I know the country used to be a Portuguese 'colony' and that was shamelessly used for centuries as a slave market. I've even heard that Luanda today is one of the most expensive cities in the world with the greatest gap you can imagine between wealthy nababs and poor locals. A Portuguese friend of mine told me that to many unemployed compatriots of his, Angola looks like the promised land, an Eldorado of easy (and often dirty) money. This way, scores of Portuguese people migrated to the former colony looking for a job they cannot find at home.
So much for the ups and downs of history!
This is what an average reader buying Another Day of Life by Kapuscinski might already know about Angola. The problem is that chances are the same Mr Brown / Kowalski / Rossi doesn't know anything at all about Angola between the 1960s and the 1970s.
That's why I would have liked more explanations from dear old Ryszard concerning the purpose of and the difference between combatants belonging to MPLA, UNITA, FNLA and FLEC.
Unluckily, Kapuscinsky - unlike what he did when writing about, say, Rwanda or Iran - relies too much on what his readers know about the whole bloody conflict in this book. This is the chief reason that led me to struggle with some parts of this book especially those in which the reporter goes to 'the front' where he meets up with Cuban soldiers dispatched to Angola by the Castro regime to give military support to one of the sides involved and faces South African forces deployed there for the same reason.
This criticism of mine doesn't affect the fact that Kapuscinski is always fantastic to read and that the pages about life in Luanda are magnificent and cliffhanging.
There is also an interesting and heartbraking insight on a supposedly minor character like the young female soldier Carlotta whose death makes the Polish reporter wonder about the foolishness of a war where there cannot ultimately be any actual winner.