Monday, March 30, 2009

Book Review: Hemingway On The China Front

Now this was a solid piece of work...Unlike my most recent review on the Alger Hiss book, this one actually goes beyond just regurgitating other people's work and slapping a new cover on it.  
Moreira does (or his editors do) mislead the reader by subtitling the book "his WWII spy mission with Martha Gellhorn" as at least I wouldn't call Hemingway a "spy" in the typical sense of the word, more like an "observer" or "information gatherer".  In Hemingway and his wife's (Gellhorn) trip to China in the period leading up to the entrance of the U.S. into WWII he was in the (assumed) paid service of the U.S. State Department to report back on the status of not only the conflict between the Japanese and Chinese but of the tensions between the Nationalist and Communist factions of the Chinese and the state of the "Burma Road" as well.  Hemingway was not undercover or pretending to be something he was not...he simply went to China as a reporter and dispatched bits of information both during and after his trip to the State Department.
In truth the book focuses more on Gellhorn and her actions in China than it does Hemingway, due in part to the fact that Gellhorn discussed her trip and wrote about it in a number of titles up to some 40+ years after her return.  Hemingway on the other hand wrote about it only second hand in a posthumously released novel ("Islands in the Stream") and in offhand anecdotes to acquaintances...
What I found new and valuable here is Hemingway and Gellhorn's interactions with the major Chinese leaders of the day including Chiang Kai-Shek and Chou En-Lai, Gellhorn's hypocrisy, and Hemingway's behavior that lived up to his legend.  Clocking in at a lean 211 pages this book is well worth the read for anyone who is interested in the events behind the man who was Hemingway and a complicated period in Chinese history where perhaps many within China wanted more to fight there own countrymen than those invading and pillaging their homeland.... 

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