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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » April 7, 2010
Et tu, Brute?
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Et tu, Brute?
April 7, 2010 By W.Ż.    
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Kapu¶ciński (1932-2007) was revered by generations of Polish reporters. A witness to 27 revolutions and coups on several continents, he won acclaim for his work for half a century as a journalist and writer. He was the author of such bestsellers as The Emperor about Ethiopia in the times of Haile Selassie, Shah of Shahs about Iran in the times of Reza Pavlavi, The Shadow of the Sun about African dictatorships and Imperium about the collapse of the Soviet Union. The books were published throughout the world and translated into dozens of languages. In 2006, Kapu¶ciński was reportedly a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature. The committee that awards the Nobel Prize does not officially reveal the names of candidates.

The new biography, Kapu¶ciński Non-Fiction, penned by Artur Domosławski, hit bookstores March 3 after failed attempts to block the sale of the book by lawyers for Kapu¶ciński's widow, Alicja. Domosławski, 43, a well-known journalist and a former protégé and friend of Kapu¶ciński, claims in his book that his mentor was often inaccurate, exaggerated and embellished content, and even fabricated details outright in his most important works. He says Kapu¶ciński collaborated with the communist secret services in Poland and had strained relations with his wife and daughter. Domosławski also controversially suggests that Kapu¶ciński was biased in his reports from Third World countries, claiming that he was an avowed supporter of socialism and in his dispatches withheld some information, for example the presence of a Cuban contingent during the civil war in Angola, that he worked as translator for Soviet military advisers and even fought on the side of leftist guerrillas. "It seems to me it is impossible to write a true biography of any person and at the same time avoid hurting someone and satisfy everyone," Domosławski said a few days before the biography hit the bookstores. "Life is always very complex, especially in the complicated times in which Kapu¶ciński lived. A person's greatness is sometimes better visible against the background of their daily activities, weaknesses and even failures. I wrote the book with empathy and friendliness towards the subject. I still regard Kapu¶ciński as my master."

Domosławski soon came under fire, although his critics admit he carried out painstaking research, visiting three continents and talking to the people Kapu¶ciński met over the past several decades. Kapu¶ciński's wife filed a lawsuit, claiming defamation and copyright infringement over Domosławski's frequent use of quotes by Kapu¶ciński. She also said she had encouraged Domosławski to write a book about the reception of Kapu¶ciński's work abroad and had no idea that his research, including access to Kapu¶ciński's private archives, would result in an unauthorized biography containing intimate details of their family life. Domosławski's book was criticized by many public figures. Some opponents even accused Domosławski of "patricide", referring to his long relationship with Kapu¶ciński. Domosławski's supporters, fewer in number than his critics, argue that the biography has not dethroned Kapu¶ciński as the doyen of Polish foreign correspondents, but is instead a valuable work that describes the difficult relations between reporters and writers and Poland's communist-era authorities.

A number of foreign publishers who have published Kapu¶ciński's books have declared publicly that they are not interested in translating Domosławski's book. But other publishers are keen on the biography. In Poland, Kapu¶ciński Non-Fiction immediately became a bestseller. W.Ż.
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