Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Face of War.

The Face of War is the title of a book by Martha Gellhorn. I became interested in her writing because of a movie on HBO called Hemingway and Gellhorn. She was briefly married to the author Ernest Hemingway and apparently dumped him because he was too bossy for her. She was a war correspondent and covered war beginning in 1936 with the Spanish Civil War through the horrors sanctioned and supported by President Reagan against the citizens of the small countries of El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s.

The movie wasn't all that great but two things were intriguing about it. The first was that the characters were inserted into actual news footage of the various wars being reported on...and done so in a very skilled and realistic way. It is creepy how well they were able to make it look like the movie characters were actually in the scenes depicted in the newsreel footages. Very disconcerting and spooky.

The second intriguing thing was Martha Gellhorn. I liked her character enough to want to read some of her writing and The Face of War just happens to be a book my local library has. The book is just superlative. It offers an eyewitness look (by the same person) at multiple wars occurring over a period of 50 years or so. I plan to obtain my own copy of the book just a soon as possible...I can think of no better writing chronicling the violence and destructiveness humans visit upon each other and on the planet than this collection of eyewitness reports.

She received the news that Germany had surrendered in 1945 while at the Dachau concentration camp. She wrote:
 "...Dachau seemed to me the most suitable place in Europe to hear the news of victory. For surely this war was made to abolish Dachau, and all the other places like Dachau, and everything that Dachau stood for, and to abolish it forever."
Her writings begin with the Spanish Civil War. Her feelings about this conflict are much the same as mine...that anyone who helped the Republican side (the democratically elected government of Spain) was someone helping all of us. That England and the United States did nothing to help these folks was a mark of shame. There's a good chance the horrors of WWII might have been avoided if the democracies had stood together against the Spain. But they didn't.

This isn't a book about veganism...but it is in a strange way. For instance at the end of the book she writes:
"I hold to the relay race theory of history: progress in human affairs depends on accepting, generation after generation, the individual duty to oppose the evils of the time. The evils of the time change but are never in short supply and would go unchallenged unless there were conscientious people to say: not if I can help it."
Well, the fact that our fellow animals aren't recognized as the owners of their own lives is one of the evils of our time...and it is our duty...if we wish to oppose that challenge that worry and harass that evil and to refuse to participate in that evil. In that respect Martha Gellhorn and I see things very much the same. She closes the book with a statement that I absolutely and totally agree with:
"There has to be a better way to run the world and we better see that we get it."
Read the book, you'll get a rare longitudinal eyewitness look at some of the stupidities and brutalities of humans toward other humans and toward our planet that is rare and unique. You'll also get acquainted (to some extent anyway) with a remarkable human woman...someone that I believe would have understood the justice of and the necessity for the vegan way of life.


Bea Elliott said...

Cool! Martha Gellhorn sounds like she was a spunky dynamo! Given the chance - I'm certain she would have been a fine advocate for nonhumans too.

I love the line "Not if I can help it!" The eloquent simplicity of pure determination!

If I add one more book to my list of future reads... I must think I'm immortal. But I would like to see the film, even though it fell short of your expectations. ...If there's a scene where Hemmingway gets the boot- It might be worth the whole movie just to watch that!

Thanks for shining a light on this exceptional woman... Nice reminder that there were quite a few in "his"story. ;)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. By all means see the movie...the use of documentary footage was terrific. Ms. Kidman is a phenomenal actress and well worth watching.

Ms. Gellhorn's perspective on our collective insanity known as "war" is well worth reading..."her"story. :-)