It was in the Spanish Civil War that Martha Gellhorn famously declared that, as a reporter, she did not believe in ‘all that objectivity shit’. She had come to Spain with Hemingway and, like him, saw her role as supporting the Republicans in a vain attempt to force Roosevelt and the Western powers to lift their embargo on sending weapons and ammunition to government forces. The couple are just two of the dozen or so Americans whose stories Adam Hochschild deftly weaves into his excellent portrait of the war and of the men and women drawn to Spain by a conviction that this struggle between an authoritarian nationalist movement and a democratically elected government might present an opportunity to avert another world war.
Hochschild’s characters are not all reporters; nor are they all well known. He has based his book on a painstaking trawl through the letters, diaries, memoirs and unpublished papers of the 2,800 Americans, out of a total of 35,000 to 40,000 individuals from fifty different countries, who served with the