Marie Colvin, what a fascinating but tragic life!

The author Lindsey Hilsum and Marie Colvin in Jenin, on the West Bank in 2002

Her face with a black patch on the left eye became synonymous of courage for war reporters, after Marie Colvin was wounded in Sri Lanka while covering the civil war in April 2001. She had already been a journalist for twenty years after graduating from Yale University and travelling to Brazil and Mexico as a young woman. In the page turner biography, “In Extremis“,  Lindsey Hilsum, one of her fervent disciples, mentions John Hersey at Yale, as changing the course of her life with his non fiction writing class. She eventually died in Syria in 2012, was honored in Parliament by both David Cameron and David Milliband. Her life was more romantic and more tragic than any thriller.

Born in Oyster Bay, Long Island on January 12, 1956, Marie Colvin always fought her way through life. She managed to interview the greatest leaders of her time, Gaddafi, Arafat, Saddam Hussein and always rendered the human side of their personality. She covered all the wars from the 90’s to 2012, in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, East Timor, Kosovo, Kuwait, The Arab Spring in Tunisia,  Afghanistan and Irak, Libya and finally Syria.  She was drinking and smoking, loving many of her fellow reporter friends, and meeting them back in London at the Frontline club or the Groucho. She did most of her writing for the Sunday Times and the Times in London after starting at UPI (United Press International) in Paris. But she also contributed to British Vogue for her friend Alex Shulman.

Marie Colvin at her wedding with Juan Carlos Gumucio in 1995

Her friend Lindsey Hilsum, who works for Channel 4 News as the International editor, had the courage and patience to research her life in detail, quoting from many of her articles and interviewing hundreds of her friends. Also reading through her 300 journals.

Marie married twice (a Brit and a Bolivian, both war reporters) and had many tempestuous affairs. Her adventurous life did not go with marital bliss. Far from it. She received the British Press award for Reporter of the year in 2010.

“In Extremis” is published by Farrar Straus & Giroux in the US and by Chatto and Windus in GB. “A private war” is the film by Matthew Heineman based on her life.

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2 Comments on “Marie Colvin, what a fascinating but tragic life!”

  1. Theo

    Hi Laure, I read this on the way to work this morning and found myself feeling moved to tears. I was friendly with Marie for a while a number of years ago. We met in London at a party for Yalies at Winfield House. It was a time when I was doing a lot of work in the Middle East, so we had a lot to say to one another. We were both chain smokers, pretty serious drinkers and we loved modern fiction. It was hard to keep up with her – you never quite knew when she would be in town, and one always had the sense that she would not be long for this world and that others had more of a right to her company than I did.

    I do, however, remember the last time we met – and you were there. It was at the very wonderful book party for Rebecca Fraser’s History of England, which was organised by Laura Lindsay at Christies. You had just arrived with Rebecca as Marie walked in the door – and I had had no idea that Rebecca knew Marie or that several quite disparate social groups had crossed. I remember that evening as being particularly joyful one – because Rebecca’s brilliant book was finally in print, because so many good people were there, and because it’s always a delight to know your friends know and love one another ! Marie and I had a good chat that evening, and as I said, it was our last time together.

    There is a strange codicil to the story. The party was at Christies, which had a fantastic interiors sale in the offing and I had spotted a set of 18th century Swedish dining room chairs which I loved (and needed). The chairs certainly looked their best – each had a Canaletto above it – and when I got home, Stuart suggested we put in a low bid. The chairs were ours ! And of course, when we divorced, the chairs were a bitter source of dispute in the negotiations – Stuart hadn’t even been at the event and didn’t really care but insisted on having them, and I insisted increasingly vehemently that they were a symbol and a remembrance of a wonderful evening with friends, and by then, an evocation of Marie, who had just been killed. Stuart’s will prevailed , and I lost them. Or so I thought !

    Needless to say the new wife was not too keen to have any evocations of me around, and the chairs were sent to auction. I discovered to my delight that they had fallen foul of “brown furniture” syndrome, and were not expected to fetch more than a few pounds each. Stuart agreed to let me have them. So they now live in Provence, a constant reminder of you, Rebecca and Marie, and a wonderful evening of happiness and friendship a few years ago in London !

    You must come and have dinner !

    xxxTheo

  2. Ellen Murphy

    I love this blog! It’s like hanging around someone’s house.
    This article — and the response above — have convinced me to read the book. I had planned to but thought it might be too heartbreaking. But not reading it now would be a crime.
    Bless Marie!

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