Martha Gellhorn | Granta Magazine

Martha Gellhorn

Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) was born in St Louis, Missouri. In 1930 she talked her way into a free passage to Europe and arrived in Paris with seventy-five dollars in her pocket and the conviction that she could earn a living as a foreign correspondent. She returned to the United States in 1934, and two years later published her acclaimed book of four linked novellas on Depression-hit America, The Trouble I’ve Seen. It was at this time that she happened to run into Ernest Hemingway, whom she married. In 1937 she returned to Europe as a war correspondent, and for the next nine years she reported on the wars in Spain, Finland, China, Java and finally Europe in World War Two. After 1946 she continued to report on whatever engaged her interest and concern, from Vietnam to the Middle East and the wars in Central America. She died in London in 1998, at the age of ninety, having witnessed and recorded many of the conflicts that shaped the twentieth century. The Face of War, her collected war reports from Spain in 1937 to Panama in 1990, and The View from the Ground, a collection of her peacetime correspondence, are both available in paperback from Granta Books. In 1984, Gellhorn began a correspondence with Granta’s then editor, Bill Buford. Below are five of her letters to Buford, within the span of four months, in which she discusses the policies and personalities Margaret Thatcher and Ronald ‘The Laughing Boy’ Reagan, Nicaragua and Vietnam, America versus Britain (where she was then residing), Granta versus theAtlantic, travelling and writing, and the power of political commitment.