Sunday, July 4, 2021

Death in the Present Tense

 From LitHub:

Eager to travel to Finland where, as far as Martha Gellhorn could determine, people “looked after each other’s needs and rights, with justice: a good democracy,” she noted that it “was unusual timing to arrive in a strange frozen country one dark afternoon and be waked the next morning at nine o’clock by the first bombs, the declaration of war,” on November 30th. Her first piece for Collier’s there, “Bombs on Helsinki,” among many vignettes, showed a nine-year-old boy outside his home watching Russian bombers, holding himself “stiffly so as not to shrink from the noise. When the air was quiet again, he said, ‘Little by little, I am getting really angry.’”

Another, “Death in the Present Tense,” had a 12-year-old bellhop who stood near the door of the Hotel Kamp “listening to the dreadful music; a long-drawn siren, the sharp, angry, too-close metallic pounding of the machine guns, the faint distant thud of the bombs.” With shaking hands, the youngster closed faded brocade curtains over a rattling window, “waiting for death as those do who cannot understand it.”

In Paris at the end of December, Martha would later recall that “Paris was the Sleeping Beauty. Blue dim-out lights shone on the snow in the empty Place de la Concorde… There were no crowds, few cars, no sense of haste or disaster. Paris had never been more at peace. I felt that I was looking at this grace for the last time.”

While she was in Paris, her mother was home in St. Louis, hosting lunch for Ernest’s first wife Hadley and their son Jack. In a December 29th letter to Hemingway, Edna Gellhorn wrote that all three of them enjoyed the visit and when she asked Jack about where he planned to go to college, he told her that he “didn’t know exactly, but wanted some place where he could fish.” (Read more.)

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