THE TASTE OF WAR by Margaret Bourke-White


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An anthology that draws from three of the renowned Life photographer's prose works: Shooting the Russian War, Purple Heart Valley, and Dear Fatherland Rest Quietly. Together, the three previously published works form a personal chronicle of WW II. There is no lack of adventure in these memoirs. As Bourke-White recalls, her assignment editors seemed to have a knack for picking the next place that would get hot. She was the only American photographer in Russia when the nonaggression pact with Germany dissolved and the Nazis stormed the border. Those experiences are told in the first section of the book. In the second section, she follows the work of engineers and suppliers--the business of war--as well as the medical corps. The final section is far more grimly objective, less memoir and more journalism, as she explores the defeated Germany amidst looting, despair, and the uncovered horrors of the concentration camps. Photographing resentful Germans in defeat, standing on balconies to get a good shot of the bombings or strapping herself into fighter planes, she had all the close scrapes and terrifying moments that make up front-line war stories. A half-dozen of her photographs are included, a taste of Bourke-White's real art, but her prose is generally good, if at times a bit breathless. Her descriptions of visual images are vivid, showing the terrible beauty of war, flying over shell craters that glimmer ""like sequins."" Her personal attitudes show their age--there are more than a couple references to fingernail polish, and she states, ""I think I would have gone to the battlefield without rations before I would go without face cream,"" but her obvious courage and determination offset her occasional coyness. Though there are some underreferenced moments, the books seem to have survived their editorial trimmings nicely. Collected, they are a sensitive portrayal of a life during wartime.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Century Hutchinson--dist. by David & Charles