The writers’s smile

Ryszard Kapuscinski talking to Charlie Rose.

I've just finished the Kapuscinski biography. A giant undertaking of a book. The final note of it is a bow toward the towering Maestro. Yet at times I felt uneasy reading more intimate findings and allegations about Kapuscinski’s character.

To learn more about the man I watched his conversation with Charlie Rose. Seeing the Maestro I realized the reason for my ambivalent reaction to certain parts of the book.

Although the biography author indicates a few times the Kapuscinski’s charm and constant smile yet these remarks are overshadowed by the remains of the material (the book runs 600 long). The style of writing does not indicate Kapu’s ever present charismatic personality. Rather it is a descent, engaging account of the search for true Kapuściński. Domosławski writes his story from within himself, and not from within his hero.

Both writers do not use much humor in their writing styles, yet Kapuscinski as a person is all about charm, ever present warmth and a humorous smile. His face constantly telegraphs the distance to the ridiculous (and tragic) game which he nonetheless plays with gusto.

Had Domoslawski written about the Kapuscinski’s writing only, his choice of style would be fine. Yet since he attempts to write about Kapuscinski the man, the style does not fit the theme. Clearly it’s very difficult to find the structural and stylistic equivalent to charm and humor. Yet, it’s not impossible - somebody like Milan Kundera, for example, could pull it off.

Anyway, the Charlie Rose interview is fascinating also because of its content: Maestro revealed that he did not take notes, did not record his interviews. He had two reasons for such approach. First, note taking or turning on a recorder usually alters the behavior of an interviewee and he wanted it straight and pure. Secondly, it forced him to concentrate on what was being said, on those 2-3 key messages usually contained in a conversation.

Indeed the tools and toys we use to record something while seemingly helping us to memorize the experience often rob us from experiencing its core.

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