"If you clip a lark's wings, it will be yours. But then it couldn't fly. And what you love about it is its flight."
Moving between Paris before the Second World War and Spain during the Civil War, Susana Fortes' beautifully written novel is based on the real life romance of photojournalists, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro. In Paris 1935, Gerta Pohorylle, a young German refugee, meets a Hungarian exile named Andre Friedmann; they are both Jewish and are exiles from the rapidly expanding Nazi regime. When Gerta and Andre first meet they have very little money and are just about able to scrape along living a bohemian hand-to-mouth existence. Andre fortunately has a real talent as a photographer, but he needs help to get himself noticed, so Gerta decides to take him on as a project, choosing his clothes and preparing him for interviews to enable him to earn decent commissions as a photojournalist. In return, Andre teaches Gerta the art of photography, an art of which she is a willing and able pupil, and their shared interest in their art and their equally fierce and shared dedication to freedom and justice, draws them much closer together, so although their relationship starts as a friendship, they soon become lovers who fall deeply and passionately in love with one another.
In order to achieve a higher profile for their work, Gerta suggests that they create a persona, and so the legendary Robert Capa is born, and as Gerta's own pictures are becoming more noticed, she changes her name also, to Gerda Taro. And it is as Capa and Taro that they decide to travel to Spain to document the tragic events of the Spanish Civil War, falling deeper in love amid the turmoil and chaos. As Gerda becomes more reckless in her pursuit of capturing on film the horrors unfolding before them, Robert tries to persuade her to take more care; however, Gerda is fiercely independent and that is part of why Robert is so strongly attracted to her. Therefore both Robert and Gerda continue to take risks in their fight against Fascism, until a tragedy occurs...
Winner of the Premio Fernando Lara prize in 2009, 'Waiting for Robert Capa' is an unusual book written in a beautiful, but quite stylistic way, using a combination of short sentences - sometimes just fragments of sentences -followed by the use of a more flowing and descriptive language, which may appear a little disconcerting to some, but which I felt suited the nature of the story and the nature of the participants in this story. Susana Fortes blends together historical fact and fiction to provide the reader with some very arresting and vibrant descriptions of Paris and Spain during the 1930s and, in contrast, her depiction of the terrible casualties suffered by the Spanish people during the Civil War is vivid, distressing and memorable. However, it is the relationship between two talented and daring young people as they strive to cope with the horrors of war which takes the centre stage in this story, and this poignant and engrossing novel is a moving tribute to those two people.