Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Travels with Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn


Martha Gellhorn was married to Ernest Hemingway.  If she were still alive and frequented this blog she would probably find me and send me a perfectly worded letter excoriating me for mentioning that fact.  She was a journalist by trade – she covered every major conflict from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam – but her skills as a writer extended from her work as a war correspondent to personal letters to novels, short stories, and, luckily for us, a travel memoir.
Travels with Myself and Another is a collection of, in her words, “horror journeys.”  At the age of 60 she thought back on all of the traveling she had done for work and pleasure and decided to put together some of the best stories.  In her estimable opinion, the best stories were the worst trips.  She mentions in the preface that when someone tells you about how great their trip was it’s usually the most boring story you could hear but when everything goes wrong (and it certainly can during international travels) the story is all the better.
We are treated to Gellhorn’s travels through China with Hemingway (referred to only as “Unwilling Companion”) so I think that’s my out for mentioning him.  This section is a wonderful example of a trip gone wrong as there are rickety plane rides, freezing temperatures, illnesses, paths blocked by soldiers, bombs, or debris.  Best of all, every time they have to wine and dine with dignitaries or military leaders Gellhorn is bored and miserable while Hemingway is beloved for his boisterous personality, skill for storytelling, and ability to drink with seemingly any living thing.  From there Gellhorn recounts several other trips, all with their own problems:  the Caribbean – storms, Africa – a guide who frequently gets lost, and Russia – bureaucracy.
For more about Martha Gellhorn try The Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn or the film Hemingway & Gellhorn (sorry, Martha) at your Virginia Beach Public Library.

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