Autumn News

Martha Gellhorn

This autumn we are adding two new Martha Gellhorn titles to the Eland list, The View from the Ground: Peacetime Dispatches, 1936–87 and The Face of War, 1937–85: War Reporting as a Commitment to Humanity, Life and Peace

There was never really a moment, in Martha Gellhorn’s long adult life, that she was not a reporter, gazing around her at the absurdities and injustices of life and recording what she observed in her spare, disciplined prose. It was not simply this uncompromising style and acute eye, however, that made her one of the great journalists of the 20th century. Rather, it was something very much her own, a kind of barely suppressed moral indignation, a disgust at what the powerful do to the poor and the disenfranchised, and a sympathy for suffering in all its forms. This veiled tone is present in almost everything she wrote, whether in peace or war time. First used to great effect in her reports on the Depression in New England and the Carolinas in the mid 1930s, it was a voice she developed and perfected over the years. It was never sentimental; on the contrary it could be bleakly unsparing and very harsh.

Soon after her 21st birthday she went as a cub reporter to the Albany Times Union, to cover the police beat, women's clubs and the morgue, where she enjoyed speculating about the lives of the dead bodies she saw. Having quickly grown out of small-town journalism, she moved to New York, but then longed for bigger horizons. In the spring of 1930, at the age of 22, she arrived in Paris with two suitcases, $75 and a typewriter. For the next four years, until she went home to write about the Depression, she earned her living writing stories for whoever would print them. The fact that she was striking looking, confidant and fearless helped . . . 

Caroline Moorehead, author of Martha Gellhorn: A Life

View Newsletter