The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Why Foreign Reporting Sucks

What stories the world press publishes! I read many of the dispatches sent from Luanda in those days. I admired the opulence of human fantasy. But I also understood my colleagues' predicament. The editor sends a reporter to a country that is fascinating the world. Such a journey costs a lot money. The world is waiting for a great story, a scoop, a sensational narrative written under a hail of bullets. The special correspondent flies out to Luanda. He is taken to the hotel. He gets a room, shaves, and changes his shirt. He is ready and goes out immediately to look for the fighting.
After several hours he announces that he's beating his head against a wall -
He can't do anything.
Angola betrays no interest in his presence. The telephone doesn't answer, or if it does it answers in Portuguese, a language he doesn't understand. [...]
Asked about the situation, [the government spokesman] Felix answers tersely: Confusão.
Confusão is a good word, a synthesis word, an everything word. In Angola it has its own specific sense and is literally untranslatable. To simplify things: Confusão means confusion, a mess, a state of anarchy and disorder. Confusão is a situation created by people, but in the course of creating it they lose control and direction, becoming victims of confusão themselves. [...]
How to explain this to people who have been in Luanda only a few hours? So once again, as if they hadn't heard Felix, they ask:
"What's the situation?"
And Felix answers:
"Haven't I told you already? Confusão."
They go away shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders. And they are shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders because Felix has sown Confusão among them.

- Ryszard Kapuscinsky, Another Day of Life


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