Waiting for Robert Capa
Almost everything in this novel violates the rules writers are told to follow. The author uses fragmented sentences, tells a lot more than she shows, shifts points of view, and makes lists. From time to time, she even intrudes upon the narrative, notifying the reader what is going to happen decades into the future. It doesn’t matter. The story is stronger than any of these supposed flaws.
Waiting for Robert Capa depicts the love affair between the historical Gerta Pohorylle, a young German woman in conflict with her Jewish heritage, and Hungarian photographer André Friedmann. They meet in Paris in the 1930s and become lovers. André teaches Gerta how to develop photos. She takes to photography with gusto. Paris is home to literati and artists: Picasso, Hemingway, Man Ray, amongst many others. Communists, young and beautiful, Gerta and André rub elbows with the intelligentsia in cafes and bistros. They take professional names: Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. And the novel becomes even more fascinating as they both travel to Spain to cover the civil war, “the first conflict to be photographed and transmitted on a daily basis.”
Of particular interest is the account of how Capa took his famous and now controversial photograph of the falling loyalist, one of the greatest war photographs ever. As the novel proceeds toward a tragic end, I am not sure what I liked best, the epoch, the intriguing characters, or the stylistic freedom of the author and the message it conveys: “It’s the story, Stupid.”