I have just re-read a book whose powerful message seems particularly pertinent in view of world events. Written by internationally renowned Polish journalist and writer, Ryszard Kapuscinski (1932-2007), it is best described by his UK translator, Antonia Lloyd-Jones: ‘A philosophical journey teaches humility in the face of the unknown.’

It is from the title of this book that I derived the name of my blog: The Other.

It is a compilation of lectures Kapuscinski gave as part of IMW Lectures on Human Sciences, and summarizes his life philosophy based on extensive travels and profound introspection.

At the end of the book, Kapuscinski poses the question of who will be the new Other we will be encountering in our ever-changing, globalized reality, and follows it with a quote from another great Polish writer, Joseph Conrad…


(…) Who will this new Other be? What will our encounter be like? What shall we say to each other? And in what language? Will we be able to listen to each other? Understand each other? Will we jointly wish to refer to that which – as Conrad puts it – ‘speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation – and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts; to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity – the dead to the living and the living to the unborn’?

R. Kapuscinski, excerpt from The Other, published by Verso 2008

Original version: Ten Inny, Wydawnictwo Znak, Krakow 2007.

J. Conrad, Preface to The nigger of the ‘Narcissus’: A Tale of the Sea, New York: W. W. Norton, 1979