Hemingway's Fiery Rival

By Alex; Fuller, Ra | Newsweek, May 21, 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Hemingway's Fiery Rival


Alex, Fuller, Ra, Newsweek


Byline: Alexandra Fuller

War reporter Martha Gellhorn finally gets her due.

Ernest Hemingway endures: his inimitable writing; his dramatic death by self-inflicted gunshot at the relatively young age of 61; his big-game hunting, hard-drinking, macho persona; his four wives. But like many oft-married celebrities--think Henry VIII or Elizabeth Taylor (we all remember Richard Burton, but who knows much about Mike Todd?)--many of those spouses have tended to become footnotes in the lives of their charismatic spouses. In the case of Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway's third of four wives, that oversight seems particularly egregious.

It seems possible however that Gellhorn is about to walk out of Hemingway's penumbra into her own well-deserved spotlight thanks to a new HBO movie, Hemingway & Gellhorn, directed by Philip Kaufman (whose credits include The Right Stuff). As Kaufman demonstrates, Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) was likely Hemingway's (Clive Owen) most challenging and interesting partner, and the only of his wives to stand up to his unpleasant sadism. Next to her gritty self-reliance, Hemingway's frequent tantrums and fatally fragile ego are brilliantly exposed as the tiresome qualities of an overindulged man-child.

"Love? Must we?" asks the older Gellhorn of an interviewer at the start of the film. Disdainfully punctuated by the exhale of cigarette smoke, the question is obviously rhetorical. Addictively interested "to what's happening on the outside," Gellhorn is almost pathologically unromantic. "I was probably the worst bed partner on five continents," she declares matter-of-factly. "All my life, idiotically, I thought sex mattered so desperately to the man who wanted it that to withhold it was like withholding bread, an act of selfishness." This grand dame is the Gellhorn we know from her own writing: impatient, prolific, and ever watchful of her own posterity.

But Kidman manages quietly to evoke something else of this ferocious, aging journalist--an underlying and unsettling degree of disappointment and hurt. Gellhorn may have been one of the most respected war correspondents of her generation, from her coverage of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s until the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, but we are left in no doubt that her groundbreaking life came at a steep personal price. Gellhorn is a woman who has seen too much horror, and while she may have retained the legendary capacity to feel compassion for a complete stranger in one of her dispatches from the world's battlefields, she has foresworn personal intimacy to do so. "We were good in war," Gellhorn says of her relationship with Hemingway, "and when there was no war, we made our own." What the two shared was not tenderness but a competitive passion that gave their relationship a self-destructing fuse.

Having cemented their adulterous relationship while both were covering the Spanish Civil War (at the time, Hemingway was still married to Pauline Pfeiffer, a devout Catholic), the two were married in 1940. Gellhorn was 32, Hemingway was 41. Although he wanted it more than she did--Gellhorn warns Hemingway from the start that she has sworn off the institution--and the relationship was volatile from the start, they were for a few years, the literary A-list couple of their time. She was blonde, ambitious, and fearless.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hemingway's Fiery Rival
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.