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The Heart of Another by Martha Gellhorn

The Heart of Another

by Martha Gellhorn

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Recently added byalanteder, ErnestHemingway
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"The Heart of Another" is a collection of 9 short stories written by journalist Martha Gellhorn between the years 1936 to 1941. It was published as a collection by Scribner's in 1941. There doesn't seem to have been any reprint since that time. I was looking in general for books written by Gellhorn in advance of the HBO film Hemingway & Gellhorn which is to be broadcast in May 2012. It seems that only her memoir "Travels With Myself and Another" is in current print as of early 2012. I was able to find a discontinued library copy of "The Heart of Another" at a reasonable price through the usual used bookstore sources on the internet.

I found this to be an enjoyable book that often had a Hemingway style to it. It is a cliche now, but sentences such as "the beer was cold and good" unfailingly sound Hemingwayesque to my ears. The years that these stories were written coincide with the years of Martha Gellhorn's first meeting and then ongoing affair with Ernest Hemingway and finally with their marriage in 1940. The famous rivalry between the two war correspondents seems to be matched here by Gellhorn's attempt to try her hand at the Hemingway style of truth-based writing where incidents of the writer's life are spun into the material for fiction. Many of the stories are based around events in either the Spanish Civil War or the Finnish/Russian Winter War which were both covered by Gellhorn or they observe or mention those conflicts from a distance. Often the protagonist is an American female war correspondent although the personalities range from the self-absorbed Mrs. Maynard in "Portrait of a Lady" to the warmer altruistic Elizabeth Danton in "Good Will to Men". One story ("A Sense of Direction") even has a Hemingway proxy figure by the name of Fred Lawrence in it.

Gellhorn continued to periodically write fiction but became much better known for her war and travel journalism. Her writing here is easily readable and the stories all deal with an underlying tension which is sometimes overt and sometimes between the lines. The title of "The Heart of Another" evokes how impenetrable our private dreams and wishes can be to our fellow humans.

Due to the limited availability of this book I've included some further summary notes for the stories below. These come with a SPOILER WARNING.
1) Luigi's House - A woman rents a farm house in Corsica that comes with a tenant farmer who tends the grapevines on the property. Her attempts to renovate the house to make a home for her absent husband who is returning from the Spanish Civil War meet with resistance by the tenant farmer who insists that he has the right to keep his own room as it is and won't cooperate with her other repair and maintenance efforts.
2) Night Before Easter - A group of characters, some of whom were in the Spanish Civil War, spend an evening carousing in Havana, Cuba.
3) Portrait of a Lady - A woman war correspondent travels to the front in Karelia, Finland in the early weeks the Winter War fought between Finland and Russia from November 1939 to March 1940. She is being humoured by the Finnish government in order to obtain positive coverage for their cause and also because her husband is the chairman of a major American oil company. A Finnish fighter pilot resents her presence in the midst of the conflict. She is able to seduce him nevertheless and fantasizes a future for herself supporting the Finnish cause with him as her lover. She awakes late the next day to find out that he has been killed while fighting Russian bombers during a morning air raid.
4) Madrid Zoo - A group of war correspondents take a break from the Spanish Civil War and ask be to shown the Madrid Zoo which is otherwise closed to the public. They are allowed to enter and escorted around by some of the guards and shown the sights and some of the remaining animals. When they leave there is shelling that begins and the middle of the street near Chicote bar is struck and some residents are injured. The correspondents go to the bar where the beer is cold and good.
5) November Afternoon - A man and a woman quarrel while out for a weekend walk in the French countryside and go back to Paris.
6) A Sense of Direction - During the Spanish Civil War, an American woman war correspondent is abandoned at her Madrid hotel by her cohorts and goes to an International Brigade headquarters near the front for dinner at the invitation of its Italian commandant. The commandant attempts to seduce her at times during the evening. After dinner with his officers, he insists on escorting her back to her escort car on the road which will drive her back to the hotel, although he has a reputation for getting lost in the dark by himself. They make it back safely however and at the hotel the woman goes to the room of a fellow American correspondent to say good night and that nothing much happened at the front. She is happy to hear that his trip with another female journalist was also not much of an event and that she may be joining him on later trip the next day.
7) Summer Resort - An American girl and a French boy are swimming at a Corsican summer resort. They see a drowned man on the beach when they go to shore. A crowd is standing around but not helping. The two of them get doctors but are unable to save the drowned man's life. They find out that he was a truck driver from Lyons and that this had been his first ever vacation. The two resolve to leave the resort.
8) Slow Train from Garmisch - A young woman is very abruptly dropped off for the Munich train at the Garmisch station in Germany. She enters the train compartment and is weeping silently and she is quietly observed by the other passengers who imagine her story and judge her conduct. When she reaches Munich she declares that she is headed to Paris where there are many friends awaiting her.
9) Good Will to Men - An American woman war correspondent returns to Paris after covering the Winter War in Finland. It is Christmas 1939, "the first Christmas of the war". She is in transit and is arranging for her trip home to the United States via a Clipper flight from Portugal. While she is in Paris, she unsuccessfully petitions all her connections in the government and the consulates to assist the release of a German communist writer named Max from a French prison camp where he has been interred since the start of hostilities with Germany. She knows the writer from their times together in the Spanish Civil War. She finally understands that nothing can be done and instead leaves money for the prisoner's wife for future use. She also goes to visit a communist agent named Karl who is obviously more interested in using Max as a martyr for their cause and is publishing a censored manuscript of Max's that has been doctored to appear more favourable to the communist cause that Max is currently feeling. Karl announces that he is also travelling to America soon. The war correspondent seems to vow to get some sort of revenge on Karl when she sees him again later in America. ( )
  alanteder | Apr 10, 2012 |
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