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The Face of War

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  685 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) was a war correspondent for nearly fifty years. From the Spanish Civil War in 1937 through the wars in Central America in the mid-eighties, her candid reports reflected her feelings for people no matter what their political ideologies, and the openness and vulnerability of her conscience. I wrote very fast, as I had to, she says, afraid that I w ...more
Paperback, 337 pages
Published January 12th 1994 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 1959)
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The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998), author, journalist and famed war correspondent, collects in one volume reports the author had previously written for magazines. The reports are about the wars she covered--the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the Nuremburg Trials, the 1946 Paris Peace Conference, the Indonesian National Revolution, the Six-Day War (the Third Arab-Israeli War), the Vietnam War and finally the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran civil wars of the 1980s. Gellhorn was a ...more
Russell Bittner
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This curt bit of advice, from the Russian writer (and wife of the poet, Osip Mandelstam) Nadezdha Mandelstam, is one that Martha Gellhorn quotes at the conclusion of the chapter titled “Rule by Terror” in the section titled Wars in Central America (p. 321). It was sage advice (under the then-present circumstances) in Ms. Mandelstam’s time; it was sage advice in Ms. Gellhorn’s time. It remains sage advice in our time.

On pp. 151-152, Ms. Gellhorn writes “On the night of New Year’s Day, I thought o
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adrenaline Rush or Compassion for Humanity?

Every time I read a book by or about Martha Gellhorn I come up with the puzzling question: “Why did a woman of white privilege and from middle class America, with influential connections in government, risk her life to travel to the most dangerous and miserable parts of the world, taking Fascist and dictatorial regimes head-on, while forcing the flashlight into dark corners of international politics to expose her own country’s complicity or instigation
Dana DesJardins
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is an astonishingly brave book, as it would need be, covering conflicts from the Spanish Civil War through the nuclear arms race in the 1980s. Gellhorn unerringly finds the underdog in any conflict and suspects power, propaganda, and privilege; in other words, her enemies are the right enemies. Unfailingly wry, by turns nonplussed and angry, Gellhorn never mitigates her outrage and says, oh so reasonably in 1959, "For we are led and must follow whether we want to or not; there is no place t ...more
Britt Skrabanek
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gellhorn's eye-opening perspective on war, from Spain to Finland to Java to Vietnam, is unlike any I've ever experienced before. A bold statement coming from someone who has extensively studied World War II, but I stand by it.

Not only was Gellhorn one of the first female war correspondents in history, she was a phenomenal writer as well. Her writing is raw and heartfelt, capturing the real moments of war, the fighters on both sides of the front and the non-fighters caught in the middle of it all
Megan O'Hara
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
read Martha or perish! She hates Nazis and Reagan so much what more can you really ask for. But you get so much more! Namely perfect final sentences and incisive criticism of the powerful. Her perspective is historically limited but extremely worthwhile. Anyway fuck Hemingway read Martha
Don Groves
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Picked up this book to compare Gellhorn's reporting with Hemingway and to see how their war coverage differed. Sorry, Poppa, Gellhorn kicks your ass. While Hemingway's boring me with chauffeurs of Madrid, Gellhorn is talking to the women and children and old men of Spain, China, Vietnam, the ones suffering without political ambition, no bravado, just ordinary people hoping to return to ordinary lives while surrounded by the horror of war. ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Adam by: reading about Gellhorn in Hochschild's Spain in Our Hearts
The point of these articles is that they are true; they tell what I saw. Perhaps they will remind others, as they remind me, of the face of war. We can hardly be reminded too much or too often. I believe that memory and imagination, not nuclear weapons, are the great deterrents. ... Though I have long lost the innocent faith that journalism is a guiding light, I still believe it is a lot better than total darkness.

Mistakenly thought this was just about her experience reporting the Spanish Civil
Nick Black
Oct 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nick by: Vegan John
Beautiful prose, lingering images, and the bravery to honor Israel, that most admirable of nations (and so often the whipping boy of the gormless). Some of the best war writing I've ever read.


Amazon 2008-10-23. Yesterday outside the Klaus Fortress of Computing, who should I run into but my old roommate and co-conspirator Vegan John (For those who know him, he and Pam are now married and living on the westside; he's a year or so from his condensed matter physics PhD, while she's finishing up
LeeAnn Heringer

When I started this book, I was amazed and astounded. I flatter myself that I write this way, or maybe it's better to say that I aspire to write this way -- the poetic attention to detail, the way she notices the little things that say everything about the big things. Her reporting of the Spanish Civil War and World War II are so incredibly spot on. I was a huge fan.

And then we get to the portion about Vietnam. And she adopts this tone that she was the only American who had problems with the V
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who wants an excellent read, because perhaps you have a taste for understanding history, or the nature of war, or international politics, or human rights, this should be on your list.
If you don't know a lot about history except what you learned in high school, this is a quick way to balance what you thought you knew.
I found it riveting, but then I'm biased. I have experienced war in Vietnam as a Navy medic, and I became for some time disappointed in humanity, and very curious about t
Shaun Bossio
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was phenomenal for a number of reasons, but mostly because of how fascinating it was to see a female war reporter evolve while witnessing fifty years of horror. I stumbled onto Gellhorn because she was Hemingway's third wife, but her writing and intellect help her stand alone. I'd thoroughly recommend this to anyone remotely interested in an insider's perspective of the changing (ed) face of why we go to war. ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Our government belongs to us. We are not little mice anymore." - The Face of War is a masterpiece and Martha Gellhorn is a real live SUPERHERO. She taught me that as a writer I should always use my skill for good. And that sometimes the most important writing is born out of fear and a hysteric need to be of use when the world is falling apart. Take your time reading this. Read sentences again. Reread the chapters if it feels right. ...more
Brian Page
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is a reason that Martha Gellhorn is still in print; and it’s not because she was once the wife of Ernest Hemingway. Read The Face of War -- if for nothing more than the joy of savoring beautiful prose. This is not to say that the stories are beautiful. TFoW is Gellhorn’s passionate antiwar manifesto. She certainly earned the right of credibility, as the book encompasses nearly every conflict beginning with the Spanish Civil War, to World War II (including the concentration camps), the Amer ...more
Sam Reaves
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Martha Gellhorn was married to Ernest Hemingway for a few years, which is how most people have heard of her, but she was a fine writer in her own right, most notably a war correspondent who witnessed nearly forty years of ghastly history in the middle third of the twentieth century.
This book is a collection of articles covering conflicts from the Spanish Civil War through Vietnam and the Six-Day War, compiled with introductory essays by Gellhorn for each section. As a woman, she faced daily resi
Susan Liston
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a book. How incredibly brave this woman was, and at a time when women just weren't this sort of thing... a war correspondent...during the Spanish CIvil War, WW2 and Vietnam. Her writing is so simple and precise and she hits the nail on the head over and over. THIS is what war is like, THIS is what is really going on and THIS is why it's so incomprehensibly stupid. It's not easy to read, I had to do it in small doses because it's often quite intense, but this is something everyone should rea ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books - and most challenging - I have read in quite some time. For all of my reading I had never heard of Martha Gellhorn but will certainly be looking for more about her in the future. This book is a collection of her stories written as a journalist covering wars all over the world. She tells the stories of the people on the ground and many of them are heart-wrenching. It would be difficult to read her work and not loathe the idea of war based on what it does to those every day ...more
Roger Snell
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The ex-wife of Ernest Hemingway is the best war correspondent I have ever read, and that is saying something for all the war history books I have read. What sets Martha Gelhorn apart is that she covered from World War II through the Reagan years in Central America and, even more significantly, her coverage focuses on the civilian impact of war on both sides.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I desperately want to give this book five stars. It is brilliant. Gellhorn's war coverage should be required reading. Unfortunately, after getting everything else right, she fails completely in her coverage of the Middle East. There are two obvious reasons for this, and, rather poignantly, one is a result of her strength (her humanism) and the other of her humanity (mortality). Having been present at the liberation of the Nazi death camps, Gellhorn was completely and justifiably appalled and out ...more
William Kirkland
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Martha Gellhorn (1908 – 1998,) wrote much and lived more. As Bill Buford, the fiction editor at “The New Yorker” is quoted in her 1998 obituary, ”Reading Martha Gellhorn for the first time is a staggering experience. She is not a travel writer or a journalist or a novelist. She is all of these, and one of the most eloquent witnesses of the 20th century.”

Martha Gellhorn

She came out of relative privilege to spend a life driven by a fierce anger at the troubles of “ordinary people trapped in confli
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
An anthology of war essays that span this fine journalist’s long career from the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Not a pacifist but someone who is strongly and bluntly antiwar, even when she supports the cause, as she did in the Spanish Civil War and World War II, which she thought we waited too long to get involved in. Gellhorn believes war is never better than a necessary evil. She also believes that aspects of modern war with its long-distanc ...more
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Martha Gellman believed as a young writer that journalism was a guiding light and if the people were told the truth , they would do the right thing. She wrote on site about the Spanish Civil War,WWII,Vietnam,Six Year War in Israel, And the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua. They are human stories that illustrate the essence of each conflict. In the end she concludes that governments should get to know the people in the countries and it is the governments andnot the people who fight for the ...more
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is my first book review, both in goodreads and just simply my first.

This book, while being 337 pages long in my edition, has quite a lot of words in it for its size. I'm not sure if it is just me but I thought the length would be a lot more manageable for its size; I was wrong.

I read this in two days because it was due back at the library in three. I rushed and barely read through about half the book and was prepared to make this review about how bad it is to rush reading. However, the conc
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Marha Gellhorn was an American war correspondent from the time of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s to the George H.W. Bush's little war in Panama in 1983.

Gellhorn wrote what she saw with no mincing of words. She came to detest war because what she ultimately realized was that war is a game of chess for the political leaders of a country--any country, even ours. Those leaders never suffer--only the people who are pushed from one war-torn area to another know what it means to starve and hav
Julie Sunstein
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
You maybe tired of reading and hearing of war but that is no excuse to miss out on Martha Gellhorn's insightful reporting on the wars of our century. Courageous and fascinating in her own right. Philosophically, I see her as independent, liberal and a pragmatic. She is against the horror of war but that said she is for the people on the ground. Her take on the soldiers in Vietnam runs counter to what we were told. She sees the war as a war of lies. First the propaganda we were told that started ...more
Martha Gellhorn's collection of war reportage is expanded in this edition to include the Six Day War and the US involvement in Central America. Gellhorn's strong narrative style provides a framework for her stories of war, from the Spanish Civil War to what was then present (1987). Her pieces focus on people are affected by war, usually through the individuals she meets as well as her own experiences in war zones. However, her earlier work is her strongest, and by the time she reports on the las ...more
Jamie McEachin
Oct 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Gellhorn's writing is incredible, and what makes this collection of her articles significant is her ability to take the reader to the time and place that she is covering. While it could get slow at times (due to the lack of a central plotline), it always brought my attention back to the people whose stories were told and the message Gellhorn was sending. And the views on nuclear weapons and the harsh realities of modern warfare were especially credible, coming from a journalist that was present ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of the few female war correspondents, Gellhorn's stories tell you about the people and how war affects them personally. Her writing is in an easy, flowing style; more about telling the story than teaching any overt lessons. Her essays are fearless in both their honesty and courage.
The exception to her objective reporting of the real conditions are the essays on The Six Day War. Gellhorn's pro-Israelis sentiments are clearly evident in her writing, which is nothing more that blatant Zionist p
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gellhorn is a gifted writer with a distinct perspective, and a flare for evocative language. This collection acts as a survey of her war reporting, and provides powerful accounts of America's military experiences (and some others) from the early 1930s through the mid 1980s.

She's at her best when she's focused on Europe, or questioning the narrative that people want her to follow, and a small number of the essays do not fall into that category, to their detriment, but overall the collection is s
Ben Anderson
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The early writing must be some of the best war reporting of all time. The pieces on Brit fighter pilots, the liberated concentration camps, the ghettoes, and later on Vietnam are perfect, full of the some of the most incredible and articulate prose I've ever read. Her later glowing reports on Israel, and brutal dismissal of the other side are troubling, and there are times when she seems to rely on prejudice rather than the irrepressible curiosity of the Spain and WWII work, but maybe that happe ...more
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American novelist, travel writer and journalist, considered to be one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century. The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism is named after her.

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