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An interesting idea that is beaten to death
on June 15, 2009
If you are looking for another book of Kapuscinski's global travel writings with those perceptive observations on all that he saw especially in rapidly developing or changing countries, then I fear this slim item is probably not for you.
Sadly it seems with his recent death (2007) and a seeming lack of unprinted travel writings, this book may evidence a danger of our seeing books printed that are at risk of ruining the man's hard earned lifetime reputation.
The book is a collection of lectures given by the author to different Central European forums, the earliest one being 1990 but the majority being from late 2004. The subject of all the lectures is the same and an interesting idea, being the impact of how we have interacted in our approach to people from other continents and cultures throughout history. The dangers of the European attitude especially, to other cultures (the "Other" of the book title) and how in a more easily traversed globe having a colonial "centrism" mindset wastes opportunities for interaction and mutual improvement is well made.
The problem is the same point is made repeatedly in the different lectures and by the end of the 80 odd pages, the repetition gets as frustrating as it is enlightening. The book is also not helped by having a lecture style that is very formal and intellectual, one assumes in part driven by the audience the author was addressing. Continual references to certain writers and anthropologists most of whom are one suspects not well known, in turn suffers from repetition especially in the cases of Levinas and Malinowski.
The main benefit of the book is to make some very simple perceptive observations on the subject which get the reader thinking but as a fully conceived and structured body of arguments, it was frustrating to read.