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The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat Paperback – March 13, 1989
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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
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?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Contains valuable information on palace politics during the era of the last King of EthiopiaPublished 3 months ago by DKT
A good over-look to understand Ethiopia's politics, either before or after you go.Published 12 months ago by Laurie Dalton
A little confusing the way chapters are laid out with initials. Most of the book is very well done and a good short read with not a lot of insignificant writing to distract the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Rick L.
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 14 months 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 19 months ago by Janet Leifer