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Covering Her Century

Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn by Caroline Moorehead

Reviewed by Christopher Benfey
The New Republic Online

"Whatever else she was — novelist, travel writer, celebrity wife, socialite — Martha Gellhorn was one of the greatest American war correspondents of her generation or any other. Through almost four decades, she covered in succession the Spanish Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, along with related skirmishes and horrors from Helsinki to Hong Kong. She was in Barcelona in November 1938 — 'perfect bombing weather,' she noted dryly — as Franco's planes closed in. She was at Dachau when news came of the German surrender; she found it 'the most suitable place in Europe to hear the news of victory.' In 1994, four years before her death at the age of eighty-nine, Gellhorn was in Brazil, writing about the violent deaths of street children there. Fearless and attentive, with a quick eye for the heartbreaking detail, she had the perfect temperament for a war reporter. 'I never really found my own private disorderly place in the world except in the general chaos of war,' she wrote to a friend in 1960, when she and the twentieth century still had plenty of war to go." Read the entire The New Republic Online review.

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