The Polish love their heroes. Milan Kundera once wrote that it was a nation that produced mercurial men, the sort who would mount a horse in defence of their country against the tanks of invading armies. Since the 1960s, journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski has been among them, but now his reputation is unravelling.
Kapuscinski was responsible for producing some of the finest reportage on the post-colonial era. Living on the modest wages and expenses of the Polish Press agency, he covered the Iranian revolution, the Honduras-El Salvador soccer war, and Africa from Angola to Ethiopia. As well as sending regular dispatches back to his homeland, still under the grip of blackout communism at the time, he went on to turn his experiences into expressionist histories that have been read the world over.
Now, however, a new biography by Artur Domoslawski offers evidence that Kapuscinski’s reports about the Mexican student massacre of 1968 were invented. “I was there,” Kapuscinski had claimed. No he wasn’t, says Domoslawski. Yet even if Domoslawski is right, does it matter?