'History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme' - Mark Twain.
A gallimaufry of random China history and research interests
Friday, January 23, 2009
Gellhorn Moaning About China
Martha Gellhorn’s 1941 trip to China is a good story, that’s why I’ve included it quite extensively in my forthcoming book on the history of journalists in China – out in June (sorry, a not too subtle plug). The trip had everything – Gellhorn travelled with her grumbling, moaning husband Ernest Hemingway; he was spying for the US State Department anyway. She also eventually decided she wasn’t enjoying herself – she got to hate the dirt and lack of hygiene in wartime China and Chongqing.
Despite her fearless reporter reputation, it seems Gellhorn rather crumbled in China where she didn’t like the toilets. And then she started moaning, and moaning and moaning. I was reminded of this the other day flipping through The Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn, edited by Caroline Moorhead. All the letters are interesting of course as Gellhorn did have a fascinating life and career but the several letter included from her China trip (which included going to Hong Kong and along the Burma Road) reminded me what a moaner she could be when it came to China.
As someone who divides their time pretty evenly writing about China now and China back then this seemed like a place to throw all the interesting bits that fall through the cracks somehow and never get used anywhere else.
It's basically the stuff that doesn't get used in my writing about modern China or in the books I do about old China - i.e. probably of little interest to anyone but me and therefore ideally suited to an obscure blog up a dark cul-de-sac of the Internet.