Martha Gellhorn (1908 – 1998). “ Serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior, involving the reporter and the reader.”. A wonderful life …. Martha Ellis Gellhorn born 1908, St Louis to liberal,
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Martha Gellhorn (1908 – 1998)
“Serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior, involving the reporter and the reader.”
upper-class activist parents
Administration and forms lifelong friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt
"I'm over-privileged. I've had a wonderful life. I didn't deserve it but I've had it."
The Trouble I’ve Seen
he dedicates his novel For Whom The Bell Tolls to her, 1940
(later refused Vietnam visa by US govt)
‘She will get up earlier, travel longer and faster and go where no other woman can get and few would stick it out if they did.' Ernest Hemingway
“War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say and it seems to me I have been saying it forever.”
“There is a hard, shining, almost cruel honesty to Gellhorn’s work.” Guardian
“One of the great war correspondents of the century; brave, fierce and wholly committed to the truth of the situation.”The Telegraph
“Reading Martha Gellhorn for the first time is a staggering experience. She is not a travel writer or a journalist or a novelist. She is all of these, and one of the most eloquent witnesses of the 20th Century.”
Bill Buford, fiction editor, The New Yorker
published with a new afterword by Gellhorn, Virago, 1986.
with new afterword by Gellhorn, Virago, 1987.
Point of No Return, with a new afterword by Gellhorn, New American library, 1989.
1967, Dodd, 1969.
Penguin, 1978, Dodd, 1980.
"Have a new housemaid named Martha and it certainly is a pleasure to give her orders. Marty was a lovely girl though. I wish she hadn't been quite so ambitious and war crazy..." Ernest Hemingway, post divorce
(collected war reporting), Simon & Schuster, 1959, revised edition,
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986.
(autobiography and travelogue), Penguin, 1978, Dodd, 1979.
(collected peacetime reporting), Atlantic Monthly
Love Goes to Press, 1946.
"I wrote fiction because I love to, and journalism from curiosity which has, I think, no limits and ends only with death."
“I had no idea you could be what I became … an unscathed tourist of wars.”
(Appendix, The Face of War, 1959)
“All politicians are bores and liars and fakes. I talk to people… ”
we better see that we get it.”
“You go into a hospital and it's full of wounded kids, so you write what you see and how it is. You don't say there's 37 wounded children in this hospital, but maybe there's 38 wounded children on the other side. You write what you see.”
takes time, and time is what we need most.
But a man who has given a year of his life,
without heroics or boastfulness, to the war in Spain,
or who, in the same way, has given a year of his life
to steel strikes, or to the unemployed, or to the
problems of race prejudice, has not lost or wasted time.
He is a man who has known where he belonged.
If you should survive such action, what you have to
say about it is the truth, is necessary and real, and
“Though notably lacking in political analysis, her dispatches have a piercing clarity largely absent in the work of modern embedded correspondents.” Nicola Walker, The Age
“[Gellhorn] writes with a cold eye and a warm heart.“
James Cameron, British journalist
and war only made the normal state somewhat worse.”
“The notion that China was a democracy under the Generalissimo is the sort of joke politicians invent and journalists perpetrate.”
“The Japanese can never conquer China by force. People who can move their capital three times, carry factory machinery and university equipment over the mountains to safety, supply a front by sampan and coolie carrier, burrow into rock and survive endless bombing, build a thousand-acre airfield in a hundred days without machinery will endure to the end.” (penultimate para, p91)
“Time does not matter in China” (last para, p91)
“Well, Mr Ma,” I said, “in the long run, I’d hate to be Japanese.” (last para, p92, and concluding sentence of the piece)
First person (“I”)
Member of unidentified group (“We”)
A participant, as well as a keen observer and historian –
certainly meets Mark Kramer’s requirement for “felt life”
Rich in both metaphor and simile
“Kicking like a baby with a tantrum” (p79);
“He looked like a cheerful Buddha” (p80)
Lean, vivid, detailed and descriptive
“The gait of the horses was like the bucking, jerking movement of an electrical-horse machine in a gymnasium.” (p79)
Uses precise detail to paint pictures; juxtaposes surprising details
“An emaciated, filthy man wearing a rain cape made of dried grass, like a hula skirt, paused to look at us …
He was one of their secret agents.” (p88)
The Third and Fifth brigades of the Guangdong People's Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Detachment
“The wind blew wildly all night, and it was too cold to sleep, but in the morning the sky was swept clean and we could see ahead the
curving mountains, blurring in the distance.” (p87)
“His grandson was a tiny mysterious boy,
like a Chinese version of Jackie Coogan in
The Kid, with the same cap and the same
enchanting, wistful face” (p83)
Affectionate, intimate, opinionated, gently ironic (viz. her hotel, a ramshackle “palace”, p80)
occasionally humorous (viz. Mr Ma’s vegetarian tiger, p87)
Includes direct speech (p87; p89; p90; p91; p92)
“It was very cold but there were plenty of mosquitoes, that frail slow-moving kind with the curled-up hind legs, the malarial mosquito” (p80)
“A common soldier earns four and a half Chinese dollars a month (or twenty-three US cents) and he has a rice allowance” (p86)
The Group of Devils play (p89);
How they burn of the hilltop to get rid of tigers (p87)
Gellhorn is “an author making what might have seemed a bold declaration, but which history proved to be true” (Gene Mustain):
“In the long run, I’d hate to be Japanese” (p92)
“The late journalist Martha Gellhorn is remembered for her radical openness and bravery in discussing controversial political issues. Sadly, Gellhorn, a model for female journalists, has few followers who dare write articles with principled insights and honestly expose the truth behind the news.”
John Pilger, New Statesman
“This strange system of military under-pay, and the tragic lack of provision for the wounded, are the two greatest misfortunes of the Chinese Army. Always excepting war, which is a misfortune for everyone.” (p86)
that they had not stopped to notice before.”
pebbles into a very large pond, and have
no way of knowing whether any pebble caused
the slightest ripple. I don't need to worry about
that. My responsibility was the effort.”
“Martha was passionate and political, glamorous and exciting. She loved to drink and gossip and smoke and flirt. She was hugely entertaining. She was motivated by a deep-hearted, deep-seated concern for justice; she was the friend of the dispossessed, the oppressed, the neglected. And she was a good writer.” Bill Buford, fiction editor, The New Yorker