Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuściński – the book for Angola

Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuściński.

For Angola, I picked a book written by a Polish journalist about the early days of a civil war that started in the 70’s (and ended in 2002)…a bit far from my stated goals of local voices and not focusing on conflict and violence…

I’m not sure I’ve read a more human account of the chaos that is war. No heroics, no propaganda, not even any serious attempt at breaking your heart or making you angry. Just emptiness and confusion and humor and sometimes utter disbelief at the impending train wreck which everyone saw coming, but were powerless to stop.

There were moments when you could feel the intensity of grabbing every ounce of life that was available, because god only knows what was coming next…

We still have a movie theatre, only one in fact, but it is panoramic and in the open air and, to top it off, free. The theatre lies in the northern part of town, near the front. The owner fled to Lisbon but the projectionist remained behind, and so did a print of the famous porno film Emmanuelle. The projectionist shows it uninterrupted, over and over, gratis, free for everyone, and the crowds of kids rush in, and soldiers who have got away from the front, and there’s always a full house, a crush, and an uproar and indescribable bellowing. To enhance the effect, the projectionist stops the action at the hottest moments. The girl is naked — stop. He has her in the airplane — stop. She has her by the river — stop. The old man has her — stop. The boxer has her — stop. If he has her in an absurd position — laughter and bravos from the audience. If he has her in a position of exaggerated sophistication, the audience falls silent and analyzes. There is so much merriment and hubbub that it is hard to hear the distant, heavy echoes of artillery on the nearby front…

I walked away feeling like I got a glimpse into Angola – and at the very least learned about the specifics of this particular conflict. It’s way too easy to sit from a comfortable (and American) distance and let the hostilities that have bedeviled some African nations over the last half century all blend together. Each war is different; each country has lost a tremendous amount of…everything…

And I will be reading everything this guy ever wrote.

Luanda – the capital city of Angola
(By Erik Cleves Kristensen (Luanda from the fort) via Wikimedia Commons)
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