Woke up to a could-be-worse movie about her and Hemingway this morning – sadly, it is also the most common result when you run a search for the lady on YouTube.

The great Martha Gellhorn is high on my list of Women I Want to be Like When I Grow Up.

With a tremendous amount of chutzpah, she will make most of us feel like we could be doing something more meaningful with our very short time in the land of the living.

Martha Gellhorn, by Bernard Perlin (1958)
Martha Gellhorn, by Bernard Perlin (1958)

Considered still today as the best war correspondent ever, Martha Gellhorn covered the Spanish Civil War, the London blitz, the Allies liberation of Dachau and the Vietnam war, to name but a few, deciding to stop only after her eighties.

She wrote things as she saw them, rather than choosing to be objectively neutral – can you ever be, really? – and, in an interview from 1983, she speaks about the politics of the time and US foreign affairs (i.e. Vietnam) in such a lucid way, one cannot help but make the link to the state of Eastern politics today. Or perhaps not much has changed.

Her main driving force was putting things on the record. Even if not many will read it. Even if you’re censored. Putting it on the record means someone, somewhere, will know what happened and what were the real consequences. Putting it on the record makes it just that little bit harder for Them to manipulate Everyone Else.

She might have loved the 21st century, with all its speed of information sharing – I can easily imagine her with a very active Twitter account. But I wonder how Gillhorn – who saw the survivors of Dachau firsthand – would deal with a society that barely reads more than the headlines and yet feels so globally engaged just by sharing photos and using hashtags to raise awareness on issues and victims that will be forgotten in the next hour.


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