In her fiction, Martha Gellhorn addresses many of the same issues and events she covered as a reporter. Set in places like Europe, Mexico, America, Africa, and the Caribbean her stories range in content from the futility of war to the frustration of marriage. Her mix of Journalism and art made her stories very popular and readable.
Early on, her literary standing was connected to Ernest Hemingway. In later years however, she proved herself to be an accomplished novelist in her own right. Fiction was her true ambition. Reporting was a way for her to see and experience the world.
Martha attended Bryn Mawr until the end of her junior year. In 1929, she wrote for the New Republic and the Times Union in Albany. She paid for her ticket to France by writing a story for the Holland America trade paper thereby launching her lifelong ambition-to become a foreign correspondent. With $75 in her pocket she began writing for several magazines and newspapers. Eventually she would work for the United Press bureau in Paris. It was during this time that she finished her first novel, What Mad Pursuit (1934) which emerged from her experiences in the pacifist youth movement in Europe. The book was published when she was 26 and received scant attention.
She returned to America in 1934 to become a relief investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Through her work, she and Elanor Roosevelt would become lifelong friends. Her second work, The Trouble I've Seen (1936) fictionalizes those experiences. H.G. Wells was so impressed with the work that he wrote the introduction. It received approving reviews as an accurate depiction of the times.
After a short stay in St. Louis and a brief encounter with Ernest Hemingway while vacationing in Florida, Martha returned to Spain in 1937 at the height of the Spanish Civil War as a correspondent for Collier's. While in Spain she worked with Hemingway and began touring war-torn Spain. By the time she left she was a seasoned war correspondent. She then traversed Europe, covered the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany, the advancement of facism in Italy and the 1939 Russo-Finnish war. A Stricken Field (1940) was based on those experiences. Set in Prague, it detailed the human condition in Czechoslovakia prior to its fall to German forces.
"I belonged to the Federation of Cassasdras, my colleagues the foreign correspondents, whom I met at every disaster. They had been reporting the rise of facism, its horrors and its sure menace, for years. If anyone listened to them, no one acted on their warning. The doom they had long prophisied arrived on time, bit by bit. In the end we became solitary stretcher bearers, trying to pull individuals free from the wreckage."
Over the next five years she trekked across China, journeyed to the Caribbean, South America then back to London as Collier's official war correspondent. She wrote, "From November 1943, with one unavoidable break in the spring of 1944, I followed the war wherever I could reach it." She went with units of the British Eighth Army, the American 82nd Airborne, the Poles in the Adriatic and endured hardships with French soldiers in Central Italy.
Her war correspondence was collected in The Face of War (1959) and her peacetime journalism in The View From the Ground (1988). Among her other notable works wereLiana (1944) the story of a mullato woman and a rich white man in the French Caribbean and The Wine of Astonishment (1948) which relates the story of two American soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge. The Lowest Trees Have Tops (1967) has been praised as an engaging comic study of a utopian Mexican community founded by Americans who fled Mcarthyism. Travels With Myself and Another (1978) contains Martha's memories of her most challenging excursions with a person she calls her "unwilling companion," widely regarded as a fictionalized version of Ernest Hemingway.
She's been criticized for focusing too much on social injustice, wavering too much between fiction and non-fiction and crowding her pages with too many details and scenes. Yet her compelling work endures. Bill Buford, fiction editor of The New Yorker said, "Reading Martha Gellhorn for the first time is a staggering experience. She is not a travel writer or a journalist or a novelist. She is all of these, and one of the most eloquent witnesses of the 20th Century."
The Trouble I've Seen (four novellas), Morrow, 1936
The Stricken Field (novel), Duell, Sloan & Pierce, 1940, published with a new afterword by Gellhorn, Virago, 1986.
The Heart of Another (short stories), Scribner, 1941.
Liana (novel), Scribner, 1944, published with a new afterword by Gellhorn, Virago, 1987.
The Wine of Astonishment (novel), Scribner, 1948, published as Point of No Return, with a new afterword by Gellhorn, New American library, 1989.
The Honeyed Peace (short stories), Doubleday, 1953.
Two by Two (four novellas), Simon & Schuster, 1958
His Own Man (novel), Simon & Schuster, 1961. Pretty Tales for Tired People (short stories), Simon & Schuster, 1965.
The Lowest Trees Have Tops (novel), M. Joseph, 1967, Dodd, 1969.
The Weather in Africa (three novellas), Penguin, 1978, Dodd, 1980.
The Short Novels of Martha Gellhorn, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1991.
The Novellas of Martha Gellhorn, Knopf, 1993.
The Face of War (collected war reporting), Simon & Schuster, 1959, revised edition, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986.
Travels With Myself and Another (autobiography and travelogue), Penguin, 1978, Dodd, 1979.
The View From the Ground (collected peacetime reporting), Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986.
Also author with Virginia Cowles of play, Love Goes to Press, 1946.