cover image Waiting for Robert Capa

Waiting for Robert Capa

Susana Fortes, trans. from the Spanish by Adriana V. López. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-200038-5

Arching between Paris before WWII and Spain in the midst of Civil War, Fortes’s (The Albanian Affairs) latest historical traces the rocky romance between the (real-life) talented, striking Polish refugee and activist Gerta Pohorylle and fellow Jewish émigré André Friedmann, otherwise known as Robert Capa. Though illuminating in its depiction of the conflicting artistic, social, and political currents rocking the Old Continent in the ’30s, the prose plods, with Fortes frequently resorting to name-dropping in lieu of narrative. Superficial descriptions of Paris cafes (“forums for heated debate” between usual suspects Hemingway, Picasso, Matisse, et al.) and the tendency for characters to enjoy “ferocious” lovemaking lend a tired, familiar feel. Gerta is “[r]esolute, firm, bold” and boasts “the reddest lips in all of Paris.” And Capa “loved that skinny Jew.” While Fortes pays a well-deserved homage to Gerta and the exceptional women of the era, including “[f]emale soldiers with black eyes and tawny leonine manes, a newspaper in one hand and a Mauser in the other,” her flowery prose is plagued by López’s strained, overly literal translation. Nevertheless, Gerta and Andre receive their just due with this thorough, if not exactly palpitating, portrayal. (Oct.)