Haile Selassie, His Most Puissant Majesty and Distinguished Highness the Emperor of Ethiopia, enjoyed a 44-year reign until his own army gave him the boot in 1974. In the days following the coup, the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski traveled to Ethiopia and sought out members of the imperial court for interviews.
His composite portrait of Selassie's crumbling imperium is an astonishing, wildly funny creation, beginning with the very first interview. "It was a small dog," recalls an anonymous functionary, "a Japanese breed. His name was Lulu. He was allowed to sleep in the Emperor's great bed. During various ceremonies, he would run away from the Emperor's lap and pee on dignitaries' shoes. The august gentlemen were not allowed to flinch or make the slightest gesture when they felt their feet getting wet. I had to walk among the dignitaries and wipe the urine from their shoes with a satin cloth. This was my job for ten years." (Well, it's a living.)
Elsewhere, the interviewees venture into tragic or grotesque or downright unbelievable terrain. Kapuscinski has shaped their testimonies into an eloquent whole, and while he never alludes to the totalitarian regime that ruled his native Poland during the same period, the analogy is impossible to ignore.
"[The Emperor] transcends reportage, becoming a nightmare of power... An unforgettable, fiercely comic, and finally compassionate book."
"Kapuscinski transcends the limitations of journalism and writes with the narrative power of a Conrad or Kipling or Orwell."
"A Stunning exhibit; the interviewed subjects. . .enunciate their memories of the days of Haile Selassie with a magical elegance that. . .achieves poetry and aphorism."
—John Updike, The New Yorker
Great book about the downfall of Selassie's autocratic regime in Ethiopia on 1974. One can easily find parallels with the way other dictatorships work and try to sustain... Read morePublished 22 days ago by Álvaro
Well written in a detached manner. Sometimes a bit confusing, however, interesting and one gets a clear picture of HAILE SELASSIE. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Janet Leifer
Extremely interesting book of anecdotes by palace insiders that clearly loved Emperor Selassie. Spanning the time from the 1930's to his death, the book is broken up into... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Glenn D. Robinson
The conceit supporting this book, the voices of people from the emperor's inner circle, works admirably to present the full flavour and quasi madness of Haile Selassie's rule. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Christine Fowler
There is nothing like this book. A very special historical occasion, very closely observed and described i crisp and clear prose.Published 8 months ago by Kjell Fladstad
The Emperor is so powerful that when he elevates someone to a new position, he changes their body language completely:
First, the whole figure of a man changes. Read more
This is such a wonderful book to read. This is so far from a textbook. The same material is covered but with heart, compassion, accuracy, and narrative. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Barnabas Howard