Monday, 25 June 2012

Another Day of Life

A busy couple of weeks, both at work and watching the European Football Championships, has meant little progress on our War in Angola project.

The one thing I I have managed to do in relation to 'War for Slow Readers' is some reading however. Specifically, I finished Ryszard Kapuscinski's 'Another Day of Life' whilst flying around the country working. It's a wonderful book, written by a Polish jounalist who was working for the Polish Press Agency in 1975 and was in Angola just before and after the transition from Portuguese colonial rule to the MPLA. That's right, Kapuscinski is an Eastern European reporter writing for a communist government controlled press agency at the exact time that our alternative timeline has been played out.

And what an inspirational read it is for someone developing scenarios for our project.Firstly, he captures the atmosphere of the time superbly. The tension of being in a city where the established authority has crumbled and no one really knows what's happening is brilliantly recreated. Reading the accounts of Luanda as independence approached reminded me of George Orwell's account of Barcelona during the street fighting between the communists and their opponents during the Spanish Civil War in 'Homage to Catalonia'. Clearly Kapuscinski's sympathies, not to mention his prospects of personal safety, are aligned with the MPLA. He does however, describe the human side of the events as they play out remarkably even handedly - he is no hack trotting out the party line at the expense of the bigger story.

His description of the thread by which the MPLA was hanging on to what power it had, the fear of an FNLA uprising, the fragility of the power and water supplies, the rumours of the South African advance from the south, and the approach of Holden Roberto's forces to the gates of Luanda are very evocative. The tension of not knowing if he'll go down to his hotel reception to try and file his report via telex and be arrested by the armed men who are always hanging around in the lobby; his instinct for self preservation as he notices little things that change day by day that might foretell what will happen next; the almost complete lack of reliable information about the political and military situation are told in a way that grips the reader. The revolution is memorably described as a 'confusion' and one that almost defies narrative, yet it is narrative that Kapuscinski does best.

We'll be revisting this book in weeks to come as we play out some of the events Kapuscinski describes. In the meantime, I encourage you to find a copy and read it - if you've enjoyed this blog you'll love this book.

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