Author(s): Ryszard Kapuscinski
After the deposition of Haile Selassie in 1974, which ended the ancient rule of the Abyssinian monarchy, Ryszard Kapuscinski travelled to Ethiopia and sought out surviving courtiers to tell their stories. Here, their eloquent and ironic voices depict the lavish, corrupt world they had known - from the rituals, hierarchies and intrigues at court to the vagaries of a ruler who maintained absolute power over his impoverished people. They describe his inexorable downfall as the Ethiopian military approach, strange omens appear in the sky and courtiers vanish, until only the Emperor and his valet remain in the deserted palace, awaiting their fate. Dramatic and mesmerising, "The Emperor" is one of the great works of reportage and a haunting epitaph on the last moments of a dying regime.
Born in Pinsk, now in Belarus, in 1932, Kapuscinski was the pre-eminent writer among Polish reporters. Kapuscinski's best-known book is just such a reportage-novel of the decline of Haile Selassie's anachronistic regime in Ethiopia - The Emperor, which has been translated into many languages. Shah of Shahs, about the last Shah of Iran, and Imperium, about the last days of the Soviet Union, have enjoyed similar success. He died in January 2007. Neal Ascherson was born in Edinburgh in 1932, and has worked as a journalist all his life - mostly as a foreign correspondent in east-central Europe and in Africa. For some 12 years he was a columnist on The Observer and The Independent on Sunday. He wrote two books about Poland, and his recent works include Black Sea (1995) and Stone Voices (2002). Neal Ascherson lives in London and is married to the journalist and broadcaster Isabel Hilton.