The Shadow of the Sun

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The Shadow of the Sun (Polish: Heban, literally "Ebony") is a non-fiction book by the Polish writer Ryszard Kapuściński, published in English translation in 2001.

Kapuściński, a journalist who covered Africa from 1957 to the 1990s, wrote a number of books about his experiences in the continent and all over the world which have been widely translated. This book is a collection of essays spanning more than four decades. Each could stand alone as a finished work, yet together they form a unique portrait of Africa, its peoples and the writer himself. From the initial enthusiasm in the 1950s when colonial power began to wane to the destruction of that dream and war and starvation, Kapuściński sees it all.

While acknowledging European colonial culpability, he refuses to rinse his words in guilt, detailing numerous problems in African governments and societies. The Shadow of the Sun is reminiscent of Gianni Celati's Adventures in Africa, employing similarly symphonic atmospherics that can bear poetic witness to both the tragic history of Rwanda and the Ngubi beetle, which toils in the desert to produce the sweat it drinks to survive. As much about the plastic water container as the warlord and preferring the African shanty town to the Manhattan skyscraper as a monument to human achievement, what Kapuściński, the author of Shah of Shahs describes is not Africa, which he claims does not exist except geographically, but a distillation of life itself, through its religiosity, its trees, the frightening abundance of youth, sun that "curdles the blood" and terrorising, ruling armies that fall in a day.

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