27 February (1974): Martha Gellhorn to Ruth Rabb

Here, Martha Gellhorn writes to her friend Ruth Rabb about her life in Kenya, where she lived for over ten years. The leaden letter reveals her health issues, her politics, and the car accident in which she killed a boy—an event mirrored in her novel The Weather in Africa.

February 1974

…Went to the doctor today; have amoebic dysentery on top of malaria; malaria presumably now cured having taken (on my own) the cure twice. But still very rocky. Doctor poked my tum, looked at my tongue. Leigh will be pleased to know I’d diagnosed amoebic dysentery on my own, privately, before the doctor did.

Have just been listening to the inconclusive 1 p.m. election news. Anyway Heath sure as hell isn’t getting that national vote of confidence he was asking for. And I’m glad, though I heartily dislike Mr. Wilson. (Poor England, like everywhere else, there are midgets for leaders). But Heath disgraced Britain, to my mind, with that spare parts for Israel behavior and bottom licking the Arabs. I doubt if anyone voted Labor as protest on that score; but there it is, in my mind. If Labor gets in, Dick Crossman will be in too and though he is an infuriating man and I would not willingly have a hot meal again with him, he is at least an understanding friend of Israel, unlike old Douglas Hume.

Great God I haven’t even told you that I got my passport back this a.m. I did. And the superintendent told me on his own the same story I’d heard that terrible day, Jan 19, in the Malindi police station. You remember there were ditches on both sides of the road, reason I saw no one. The boy scrambled up on the left and I saw him for a split second only on the edge of the road, running. But his sisters were on the right side and had called to him to run across before the car came; I heard that in Malindi and thought it too horrible to be true. And there was no other car except mine on that road, either way, and not for minutes which seemed hours after the accident. There was no need to call to him. How awful it is. Are the parents to blame for not teaching their children anything about cars and roads? Or are children unteachable?

Oh god I am so fed up with living; it’s too much work.



From Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn. Gellhorn, Martha, and Caroline Moorehead. New York: H. Holt, 2006. 

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