In This Review

The Emperor: Downfall of An Autocrat
The Emperor: Downfall of An Autocrat
By Ryszard Kapuscinski
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983, 164 pp.

Regarded within the author's native Poland as a metaphor for the ingrown corruption of dictatorship, this prose poem about the fall of Ethiopia's emperor penetrates deeply into the workings of autocratic power and its effects on the attendant courtiers. Through the painstakingly retrieved (and perhaps artfully embellished) recollections of former palace functionaries, Kapuscinski depicts a feudal monarch whose administrative genius served one end-the concentration of all control in his hands. The slow unravelling shows the importance of the facade to both ruler and ruled: both struggle to maintain the pretense as the last hedge against chaos.