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Imperium Paperback – International Edition, August 8, 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (August 8, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067974780X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679747802
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Polish journalist Kapuscinski offers a travelogue account of the collapse of the Soviet system and the difficulties of creating genuine democracy from what has been left behind.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Journalist and author of several critically acclaimed books, among them The Soccer War (LJ 4/15/91), Kapus'cin'ski here chronicles the life of the Soviet Union. He divides his book into three sections: "First Encounters (1939-1967)"; "From a Bird's-Eye View (1989-1991)"; and "The Sequel Continues (1992-1993)." As such, he covers the relative zenith and dramatic decline of the one-time superpower. Movingly written, eloquently translated, and replete with literary nuances, Imperium is thought-provoking and fascinating. The subject matter is vast, but Kapus'cin'ski manages to provide enough detail to satisfy inquisitive readers while at the same time not creating a burdensome work. Because of his keen attention to detail, historical knowledge, and powerful writing skills, Kapus'cin'ski's Imperium is a chilling and enthralling record of the decline of an empire and the brutality and inhumanity that frequently characterized it. Highly recommended.
Joseph P. Parsons, Columbia Coll., Chicago
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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I intend to read his other books, and highly recommend this one.
H. Thompson
Kapuscinski approaches the book from a human perspective rather than from a structural/physical geographic angle.
Dr A D Evans
Reading Ryszard Kapuscinski is like sitting at the knee of a master storyteller!
Judy K. Polhemus

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Rodan on January 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've read this book several time since I first chanced across it in the library several years ago. Kapuscinski's vision is unique since it is essentially unclouded by idealogical or political bias. His outlook is more cultural than political and he breaks apart the image (so prevalent in the U.S.) of the Russia is/was a monolithic and homogenous bastion of Marxism.The truth (not surprisingly) is much more complicated than that.
Imperium reads like a travelogue across the sweeping expanse of that was once collectively called the U.S.S.R. Kapuscinski shows that the "republic" was never more than a far-flung and disparate collection of principalities yoked by violence to form a unified front. Underneath this exterior he reveals the ethnic, cultural, and religious tensions that have always threatened to rend the region apart, and now seem destined to set the various factions against one-another.
All of this underscores the fact that Kapuscinski is one of the great writers of our time (although, regretably, his output is pretty limited). His writing transcends genre and is timeless and well crafted enough to draw the reader in no matter what the subject matter. Because he seems to have little to prove his vision is less self-conscious, less affected, and more mature than the most of the batch of current fiction writers.
Read this book. Read it for the history. Read it for the story-telling. Or read it for the power and grace of its language. Any way you read it, you'll be better for it...
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Alex Teller on December 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I consider myself a lifelong student of Russia and the former Soviet Union, having read and studied a huge number of books and reports on the subject. But Ryszard Kapuscinski's Imperium is superior to everything else I have read and imagined. He is a keen observer and a superb writer; he has traveled to cities and regions where even the most hardened Russian reporters didn't go. His prose is gripping and the translation is excellent. Reading this book is a rare pleasure. I recommend it very highly to all those who want to understand what Russia is and why the Russians are the way they are. They are very different from the rest of the world and Kapuscinski unravels the mystery better than any body else. Having studied Eastern Europe for more than 50 years I can say this with a great deal of confidence.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on October 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
My grandparents left the territory of what would become the Soviet Union long before the 1917 Revolution. They came to America and I thank God they did. Whenever I read about the USSR, I always realize that only a couple of small decisions saved me from being born there, or more probably, saved me from being wiped out there, since I was born during World War II. Fate has a way of creating circles, though, and I've wound up teaching English to people from my grandparents' homeland. It's curious. Many of them are ethnically exactly the same as I am, but it is always obvious that there is a huge cultural gap. OK, they didn't grow up in America. I have never set foot in any part of the former USSR. I have spent the last 14 years peering into their pasts, constantly wondering why they are predisposed to think this way, act that way. I have thought long and hard about the issue, discussed it with many of my students, read their stories, listened to many more. A book like IMPERIUM goes a long way towards helping me understand that difference between me, "the one that got away" and them, "the ones that didn't".

Back in 1988, in a single week, I read three of Kapuscinski's books in a mad dash of fascination. I'd already spent over six years living in various Third World countries and his writing on Iran, Ethiopia and Angola captured something that no one else came close to, especially because he never sneered, he never condescended. No racist platitudes, no grandstanding for a Western audience for Kapuscinski.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar on April 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ryszard Kapuscinski is a guru to many people in Poland, and his books were always received with unending awe - because he traveled, when hardly anybody else could o anywhere apart from other countries of the Communist bloc, and moreover - he could write about what he saw... I still marvel how he managed to write so many things, which were in principle against the system, and still get published, but it is another question (Polish censorship was maybe not that tight or not that clever, or - most likely - clever enough to allow the chosen one his writing in the name of relative peace???).

"Imperium" is one of my favorites among Kapuscinski's books (NB. I have read the original, so have no idea about the translation, but after reading some earlier reviews I think it must be good too). I have been driven to the mystery of Russia and its acquisitions as well as to the phenomenon of Soviet Union for a long time, and here Kapuscinski gives a lot on these subjects in a concise form.

The book is divided into several parts, starting with the author's earliest memories of Soviet Union, when he was a schoolboy of what is now Belarus, and with his surprisingly acute observations (reminding me of my own, never put into words, forty years later, when everything was already much more relieved, but still the school was mysteriously insane). Then we go through Siberia on the Transsiberian train (still a cult trip for many students in Poland, albeit it must be very different now), and proceed to the other republics of the Soviet Union.

Kapuscinski traveled as a journalist, but always he managed to get something private out of each visit, which had to have an official program and probably nothing more was permitted.
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