Herodotus, the 5th-century chronicler, scarcely figured in the curriculum when famed Polish writer and traveler Kapuscinski was going to university just after WWII. Though a Polish translation had been completed, it went unpublished throughout Josef Stalin's remaining years, its pages full of subtle warnings that imperial overreach and the cruelty of rulers would always be avenged one day. When a Polish Herodotus finally did appear, it went into Kapuscinski suitcase courtesy of the newspaper editor who sent the young man off to India and China as a correspondent.
Inspired by the common-sensical Herodotus, who tried to explain the world beyond their gates to his fellow Greeks, Kapuscinski embarked on a series of ravels that he details in his many other books and describes here. One episode finds him wandering through Nasserite, phohibitionist Cairo looking for a discreet place in which to pitch an empty beer bottle; another sees him alternately spied on and chanted to in China; still another confronts him with the curious sight of an animated Louis Armstrong playing before a stony-faces audience of Sudanese. Throughout, Kapuscinski test and emulates Herodotus's methods: "he wanders, looks, talks, listens, in order that he can later note down what he learned and saw, or simply to remember better."