?Another Day Of Life? book written by Ryszars Kapunscinki is a really one of the greatest art works of that frightful timeframe. I call it art work, because only those books that reflect the true ?face? of the World, it?s real ?condition? are really valuable. Because reading those books we can understand so many important things in politics, in economics and generally in life of people. And this can really change our attitude. ?Another Day of Life? is a non-fiction record of the first three months of the Angolan Civil War. It includes a notable description of the degradation of the Angolan capital, Luanda, as well as an analysis of the various weaknesses of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) front. In ?Another Day Of Life? the evacuations are supposed to be loud, chaotic affairs. Thousands of people, their possessions bulging from knapsacks and suitcases, crush the airport, while others try to climb the fence of a friendly embassy. Every minute counts, because the lava or the militia or the locusts are already on the outskirts of the city. That's not what happened in Angola. After signing the Alvor Agreement in January 1975, Portugal agreed that its southern African colony would become independent on November 11th of that year. Everyone, whether colonist or African, had ten months to react. Ryszard Kapuscinski, a reporter for the Polish Press Agency - which, at the time, was a government-controlled Soviet Bloc news and propaganda ministry - lived in the Hotel Tivoli in Luanda, the capital city, for the last three months of colonial rule.
He used the ocean view from his room to gauge the tension: ?Offshore stood several freighters under European flags. Their captains maintained radio contact with Europe and they had a better idea of what was happening in Angola than we did - we were imprisoned in a besieged city. When the news circulated around the world that the battle for Luanda was approaching, the ships sailed out to sea and stopped on the edge of the horizon . . . . Later it turned out that the date for the attack on Luanda had been changed and the fleet returned to the bay, expecting as always to load cargoes of cotton and coffee?. Kapuscinski's memoir of those months, Another Day of Life, includes a dreamlike sequence describing how the European sections of the city slowly emptied as the deadline neared. A shop was open Tuesday and permanently closed Wednesday, its owners en route to Lisbon. The next week, the firemen were gone, and, the week after that, so were the garbage collectors. Abandoned dogs were everywhere. A book store and a wedding boutique were still open, but no one was buying; at the funeral home, business was booming. Portuguese settlers from the countryside lived in improvised shantytowns as they arranged final passage back to Europe. Meanwhile, the townspeople were obsessed with the crates in which they would ship back their possessions: ?
Everybody was busy building crates. Mountains of boards and plywood were brought in. The price of hammers and nails soared. Crates were the main topic of conversation - how to build them, what was the best thing to reinforce them with. Self-proclaimed experts, crate specialists, homegrown architects of cratery, masters of crate styles, crate schools, and crate fashions appeared.... The richer the people, the bigger the crates they erected. Crates belonging to millionaires were impressive: beamed and lined with sailcloth, they had solid, elegant walls made of the most expensive grades of tropical wood, with the rings and knots cut and polished like antiques. Into these crates went whole salons and bedrooms, sofas, tables, wardrobes, kitchens and refrigerators, commodes and armchairs, pictures, carpets, chandeliers, porcelain, bedclothes and lines, clothing, tapestries and vases, even artificial flowers (I saw them with my own eyes), all the monstrous and inexhaustible junk that clutters every middle-class home.... The crates of the poor are inferior on several counts. They are smaller, often downright diminutive, and unsightly. They can't compete in quality; their workmanship leaves a great deal to be desired. While the wealthy can employ master cabinetmakers, the poor have to knock their crates together with their own hands. For material they use odds and ends from the lumber yard, mill ends, warped beams, cracked plywood, all the leftovers you can pick up thirdhand. Many are made of hammered tin, taken from olive-oil cans, old signs, and rusty billboards; they look like the tumbledown slums of the African quarters. It's not worth looking inside - not worth it, and not really the sort of thing one does?. As you can read from the book, Kapuscinski has an eye for detail, and this is the first of his books that I've read. It's impossible to determine from this narrow slice (the book is more like a lengthy magazine article) how his background in the state-controlled media affected his reporting. What is obvious from the printed page is that Kapuscinski had far better sources among Angola's Communists (the MPLA) than he had among the two Western-backed rebel groups (the FNLA in the north and UNITA in the south) or among the remnants of the Portuguese administration. Kapuscinski also had an ambiguous relationship with the Cuban soldiers who were entering Angola to support the MPLA, and, intriguingly, he appears to have been granted access to the field HQ of the Cubans' enemy, the South African Army units which invaded in support of a planned FNLA-UNITA coalition government. (There were, incredibly, several more rebel groups, some of which are still in existence.) My only quibble is that Kapuscinski did not do the best job identifying all of the players or explaining what they wanted and who was allied with whom.
Kapuscinski's goal appears to have been more elusive: to describe people's reaction, over time, to a sense of impending and unavoidable doom. Rumor exhausted everyone, plucked at nerves, took away the capacity to think. The city lived in an atmosphere of hysteria and trembled with dread. People didn't know how to cope with the reality that surrounded them, how to interpret it, get used to it. He succeeded. Ryszard Kapuscinski is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's preeminent journalists, demonstrating an almost mystical ability to discover the odd or overlooked and incorporating these sometimes surreal details into narratives that go beyond mere reportage and enter the realm of literature. For the conclusion I would like to say that ?Another Day of Life? is Kapuscinski's dramatic account of the three months he spent in Angola at the beginning of its decades' long civil war. Civil war is the most dreadful and scary war. This is the time when people of the same nation or religion start to kill each other, when they should only protect. And at this scariest time, when even the dogs abandoned by the Europeans leave, Kapuscinski decides to go to the front, where the wrong greeting could cost your life and where young soldiers-from Cuba, Russia, South Africa, Portugal-are fighting a war with global repercussions. With harrowing detail, Kapuscinski shows us the peculiar brutality of a country divided by its newfound freedom.
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