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Poland's Ryszard Kapuściński accused of fiction-writing

Ryszard Kapuściński accused of fiction-writing

He has been voted the greatest journalist of the 20th century. In an unparalleled career, Ryszard Kapuściński transformed the humble job of reporting into a literary art, chronicling the wars, coups and bloody revolutions that shook Africa and Latin America in the 1960s and 70s.

But a new book claims that the legendary Polish journalist, who died three years ago aged 74, repeatedly crossed the boundary between reportage and fiction-writing – or, to put it less politely, made stuff up.

In a 600-page biography of the writer published in Poland yesterday, Artur Domoslawski says Kapuściński often strayed from the strict rules of "Anglo-Saxon journalism". He was often inaccurate with details, claiming to have witnessed events he was not present at. On other occasions, Kapuściński invented images to suit his story, departing from reality in the interests of a superior aesthetic truth, Domoslawski claims.

Domoslawski told the Guardian: "Sometimes the literary idea conquered him. In one passage, for example, he writes that the fish in Lake Victoria in Uganda had grown big from feasting on people killed by Idi Amin. It's a colourful and terrifying metaphor. In fact, the fish got larger after eating smaller fish from the Nile."

He added: "Kapuściński was experimenting in journalism. He wasn't aware he had crossed the line between journalism and literature. I still think his books are wonderful and precious. But ultimately, they belong to fiction."

On another occasion, the writer reported vividly on a massacre in Mexico in 1968. Although he was travelling in Latin America at the time, Kapuściński did not witness it, despite asserting "I was there", Domoslawski alleges.

The biographer, a correspondent with Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest paper, said he did not want to debunk Kapuściński, whom he described as "my mentor". Instead, he said, he sought to start a debate over the relationship between truth and fiction, a biographer and his subject, and how far modern Poland remained haunted by its communist past.

"I think my book is fair. The strange thing is I was writing with sympathy about Kapuściński. I wrote it with big empathy," he said. Kapuściński's widow's, Alicja, however, has violently objected to the biography ...............


Re: Poland's Ryszard Kapuściński accused of fiction-writing

When I first saw Wajda’s Bez Znieczulenia in 1979 I was unaware of Kapuściński but the natives all understood that the character of Jerzy Michalowski was modeled on him. Apparently Agnieszka Holland and Andrzej Wajda were looking for a strong protagonist to be screwed by the system. After 30 years the film still haunts.