I briefly met the writer, novelist and journalist Martha Gellhorn in the 1990s, towards the end of her life, at a bed and breakfast in Melville, Johannesburg, of all places. After a few pleasantries, she waved me away, excusing herself. She was tired, she said, and wanted to sleep. I never discovered why she was in SA, but presumed a curiosity about the end of apartheid had compelled her to make the journey, despite her failing health. 

She was totally blind when she died, aged 89, in 1998. Considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century, Gellhorn reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career. She was also briefly the third wife of Ernest Hemingway, from 1940 to 1945, and would come to resent the fame that came with that relationship. As a condition for granting interviews, she would insist there be no mention of Hemingway’s name. “I’ve been a writer for over 40 years,” she once noted. “I was a writer before I met...

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