"Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival." So Martha Gellhorn introduces her travel memoir of her most memorable horror journeys in an entertaining and historical book, Travels with Myself and Another.
I found this book a few years ago while browsing at Barnes and Noble. I rarely buy books, but the brief description of Gellhorn as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway and rare female journalist during WWII was enough for me to add it to my exclusive biography collection. Gellhorn witnessed the invasion of Normandy as a stowaway after getting kicked off the press boat and wrote over a dozen fiction and non-fiction books in her 60-year career. Travels with Myself and Another is a collection of "the best of the worst journeys," originally published in 1978 and spanning a swath of history from the WWII Greatest Generation to the 1970's counterculture revolution.
"We are supposed to learn by experience;" Gellhorn reflects on her repeated travels in her introduction, "fat lot of good that does if you only remember the experience too late." We start out in WWII China with Ernest Hemingway as her unwilling "another," and end with her babysitting her helpless driver in East Africa. Her laugh-out-loud descriptions of lunches with everyone from Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang in war-torn China to Mrs. Mandelstam in the oppressive Soviet communist regime provide an entertaining romp through history with someone who has been there. Her casual mentions of the countries in Africa and realistic dialect of the natives of the Caribbean made me pick up an atlas. Her character as a true free spirit who hires her own boats against the advice of locals shines through in her tight and un-politically correct prose. "I remember West Africa the way one remembers pain, as an incident but never the precise sensations." (Sixty-eight pages through West Africa are lifted straight from a found journal and were as hard for me to get through as it was for Gellhorn to get through West Africa. I recommend skipping this part if you also find it doesn't flow well.) But the rest of the book is a treasure of insight, history, and world travel.
Travels with Myself and Another was one of the first books that brought home to me that real life can be just as entertaining to read as fiction. I found myself studying Gellhorn's quick and direct writing style, impressed by the amount of description she is able to capture in just a few words. I loved reading her stories that contained the honest appraisals of her thoughts and impressions. I often picked up her book, saying to myself, "Take me away, Martha." Travels with Myself and Another opened my eyes to the depth of knowledge in women's lives and stories.
From Wikipedia: Martha Gellhorn was an American novelist, travel writer, and journalist, considered to be one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century. She reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career. Gellhorn was also the third wife of American novelist Ernest Hemingway, from 1940 to 1945. More details can be found at Wikipedia and on the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism website.
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