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The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat Paperback – March 13, 1989
The Amazon Book Review
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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.
"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
Top Customer Reviews
The book is structured into three chapters, The Throne, It's Coming, It's Coming, and The Collapse. Imperial Palace inhabitants relate stories that describe the feelings and attitudes of those closest to the Emperor. Kapuscinski gives you a sense of what it was like to be in the palace in times of great affluence and abundance. Just when you thought it could not get any better, the feeling of revolution sets in. He describes how the people began to tire of the monarchy, loose respect for power, and grow increasingly hungry. It was captivating to read how the dignitaries tried to hold on to their imperious way of life, while the revolution was taking place outside the palace gates.
This book takes you inside the palace during crucial times of Haile Selassie's reign. You get a sense of what the people were thinking, but did anyone ever know what Haile Selassie was actually thinking?