After the deposition of Haile Selassie in 1974, which ended the ancient rule of the Abyssinian monarchy, Ryszard Kapuściński 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.
The Penguin Modern Classics edition of Ryszard Kapuściński’s The Emperor is translated by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand, with an introduction by Neal Ascherton.
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