Ryszard Kapuściński, Biography of a Celebrated Chronicler

Ryszard Kapuściński was one of those reporters who put the job above his own life. With great courage he was present in the bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century to tell what happened, with great poetic and depth, to his readers.

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Ryszard Kapuściński was one of the most important chroniclers in the world. Incarnated the classic reporter who went to the scene of the events still at the risk of his own life, to collect information firsthand. Throughout his career he witnessed 27 revolutions and was on 12 fronts of war. He was also sentenced to death four times and was infected with malaria and tuberculosis while he was searching for information.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Ryszard Kapuściński is that his journalism was not centered on the figures of power, but on the most humble. What he sought and found was the effect of the great events, seen from the very heart of the societies in which they took place.

“The journalists’ job is not to step on the cockroaches, but to turn on the light, so that people see how the cockroaches run to hide.”

-Ryszard Kapuściński-

Throughout his life he wrote about 30 books, in addition to countless articles, essays and poems. He was not only a rigorous researcher, but also a wonderful writer. For critics, his best work is Ébano, a fabulous collection of chronicles that narrate the fall of colonialism on the African continent. However, other works of his like The Emperor, The Soccer War or The Cynics do not work for this job, they have also gone around the world.

Ryszard Kapuściński, a poor child

A detailed biography of Ryszard Kapuściński has not yet been published, so there are many facts about his life that are unknown. However, in his work Viajes con Heródoto, he talks about his childhood. It is known that he was born on March 4, 1932 in the Polish town of Pinsk, which today is part of Belarus. Kapuściński points out that it was the poorest place in his country and probably in all of Europe.

Poverty and war were present in his life, from the moment he was born. He says he met Warsaw, which he always loved, when he was 12 years old. He visited that city, like other Polish towns, as a refugee. His family was going from one place to another fleeing the armed conflicts that followed each other.

That poverty and that continuous displacement completely marked his perspective on the world. From a young age he knew that his destiny was “to cross borders”. That’s why he was always a tireless traveler. “The meaning of life is to cross borders,” he once said. He also felt a special fascination for the countries of the third world, where he met again the reminiscences of his own childhood.

Traveler and reporter

Ryszard Kapuściński studied history, but a reporter was throbbing in his blood and soon expressed himself. He started working in a small newspaper. When he was 32 years old he was hired by the Polish Press Agency, which made him the only international correspondent of his plant. Since then he began a journey that took him through Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Soon his work aroused great admiration.

In a posthumous biography, the only one that has appeared so far, it was said that Ryszard Kapuściński actually worked for the secret intelligence service of the Polish government. This information has not been corroborated or denied until now.

If this were true, it does not take away even a bit of value from his work, which always showed the perspective of the most disadvantaged, with an exquisite prose. Kapuściński had a research method similar to that of a spy. He entered the subjects with an unstoppable passion and delved into them until finding minute details that fully illustrate a reality.

A celebrated chronicler

Over time, Ryszard Kapuściński’s fame became universal. He was called by Gabriel García Márquez himself to become a teacher at the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano. He was also a professor at several universities and dictated an innumerable amount of lectures. He won several awards for his work.

He believed, fervently, that in order to report a fact, his history should be known in detail. He never entered into a reality without thoroughly consulting his history and forming an accurate idea of ​​the causes and consequences of a specific situation. He was the kind of reporter who walked the critical areas on foot, making deep reflections on and narrating them so that any human being could understand what was being played there.

In these times of journalists obsessed with fame and, generally, trivial and immediate, Ryszard Kapuściński serves as a solid model. Not only a passionate practice of the trade, but also an impeccable ethic in which the truth and the recipient of it are the most important.


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