Writing the fighting: war correspondence as literature

Filed under: Non-fiction

Janine di Giovanni, Max Hastings, Caroline Moorehead and Nick Rankin discussing war correspondence as literature.

War sells books – and top war correspondents, once anonymous reporters filing copy from the front line, now have celebrity status. But under the pressures of copy deadlines, editorial policy limits and official propaganda, how free are they to tell the public what they really ought to know? Are those who turn their eye-witness accounts into books more able to tell the truth – or, in an age of spin and ‘sexing up’, are there inducements to exaggerate and colour? And what is it that makes some writers so addicted to war? Nick Rankin works for the BBC World Service, and recently published Telegram from Guernica, an acclaimed biography of the 1930s war correspondent George Steer. Janine di Giovanni is senior foreign correspondent for The Times, has reported on every major conflict since Bosnia, and will shortly publish Madness Visible: a memoir of war. Max Hastings, son of a war correspondent, has written twelve books about war, including Going to the Wars, a memoir of his life as a war reporter. Caroline Moorehead, the daughter of an Australian war correspondent, publishes her biography of Martha Gellhorn, the first female war correspondent to become world-famous, in October.

Recorded on Thursday 20 November 2003.

Related RSL Fellows

Nicholas Rankin 2009
Caroline Moorehead 1993