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"One of the great journalists of our time" (The Los Angeles Times), Kapuscinski offers in Imperium an intensely personal, detailed exploration of the empire that was the Soviet Union. He begins with his own childhood memories of the postwar Soviet occupation of Pinsk, in what was then Poland's eastern frontier, and takes us up to 1967, when he traveled across Siberia and through the Soviet Union's southern and Central Asian republics. Between 1989 and 1991, he made a series of extended journeys through the disintegrating Soviet empire, and his accounts of these form the heart of the book. He traversed Soviet territory, from the border of Poland to the gulags in far-eastern Siberia, from above the Arctic Circle to the edge of Afghanistan, venturing into the lives of individuals and the places around them. Kapuscinski closes Imperium with reflections on the state of the ex-USSR, meditations arising from amidst the debris of the Imperium's collapse. Translated by Klara Glowczewska.
"A compelling and convincing narrative that examines the extensive damage done to entire nations, the human psyche and the physical environment... Rarely has such a collection of horror stories been assembled and presented with such narrative power....This is a devastating picture of Russia [that] penetrates deeply into the depressing truths of 70 years of Soviet rule, the borders, the fear, the inhumanity.... Kapuscinski forcefully reminds us of the waste of human potential resulting from the Soviet brand of totalitarian rule in the 20th century. His portrait of the 'Imperium' is tragic, but ever so true."
--Professor Thomas R. Beyer, Jr., Middlebury College, The Boston Globe
"What is striking about Kapuscinksi is his ability to capture the historically telling image we would not otherwise see... Anyone who grew up in Pinsk and saw what Kapuscinski saw might be expected to have a keen awareness of Russian imperial power. What gives Kapuscinski's voice such integrity is that his early first-hand experience of autocracy and national conquest broadened rather than narrowed him. It gave him an unerring moral radar for detecting the abuses and delusions of every sort of autocracy and nationalism, large and small, whether in Moscow or Yerevan, Tehran or Johannesburg. The 'imperium' of this book's title is not just the former Soviet Union. It is, unfortunately, most of the earth.... Beneath the seductive dazzle of his prose, the questioning moral imagination of this truly original writer makes his work a whole. The frightened seven-year-old boy in Pinsk, peering out through the bushes at the secret police troops, went on to spend his working life looking into their very souls."
--Adam Hochschild, The New York Review of Books
"An acute observer and a sharp analyst, Kapuscinski can take a trivial element like barbed wire, use it as a metaphor of the all-Soviet economy and then magically spin the image to demonstrate the absurdity of the whole system: 'For the matter does not end with the wiring of borders! How many thousands of kilometers of wire were used to fence in the gulag archipelago? Those hundreds of camps, staging points and prisons scattered throughout the territory of the entire Imperium!.... If one were to multiply all this by the number of years the Soviet government has been in existence, it would be easy to see why, in the shops of Smolensk Or Omsk, one can buy neither a hoe nor a hammer, never a knife or a spoon."
--Anna Husarska, Washington Post Book World
FIRST ENCOUNTERS (1939-1967)
FROM A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW (1989-1991)
The Third Rome
The Temple and the Palace
We Look, We Cry
The man on the Asphalt Mountain
Fleeing from Oneself
Vorkuta--to Freeze in Fire
Tomorrow, the Revolt of the Bashkirs
Russian Mystery Play
Jumping over Puddles
Kolyma, Fog and More Fog
The Kremlin: The Magic Mountain
Central Asia--the Destruction of the Sea
Pomona of the Little Town of Drohobych
Return to My Hometown
THE SEQUEL CONTINUES (1992-1993)
The Sequel Continues