Slightly Out of Focus (Modern Library)

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9780679603283: Slightly Out of Focus (Modern Library)

In 1942, a dashing young man who liked nothing so much as a heated game of poker, a good bottle of scotch, and the company of a pretty girl hopped a merchant ship to England. He was Robert Capa, the brilliant and daring photojournalist, and Collier's magazine had put him on assignment to photograph the war raging in Europe. In these pages, Capa recounts his terrifying journey through the darkest battles of World War II and shares his memories of the men and women of the Allied forces who befriended, amused, and captivated him along the way. His photographs are masterpieces -- John G. Morris, Magnum Photos' first executive editor, called Capa "the century's greatest battlefield photographer" -- and his writing is by turns riotously funny and deeply moving.

From Sicily to London, Normandy to Algiers, Capa experienced some of the most trying conditions imaginable, yet his compassion and wit shine on every page of this book. Charming and profound, Slightly Out of Focus is a marvelous memoir told in words and pictures by an extraordinary man.

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Review:

Robert Capa, the great photojournalist who is perhaps best known for his searing images of WWII, infused his autobiography with the same brio and warmth that he expressed in his now classic photographs. "Victory was pleasant and exhausting," the Hungarian-born American notes after the Allies' capture of Tunisia. "During the day in the streets ... we were kissed by hundreds of old women.... We had enough liquor from a captured Gestapo warehouse to keep our singing throats from drying out." Always on the frontlines (he was killed in 1954 in what would later become known as the Vietnam War), Capa went ahead with the parachute invasion of Sicily even though he had been fired from Colliers Weekly--flying in with a squadron of young soldiers he refers to as "boys." When Capa's turn came to jump, he forgot to count "one thousand, two thousand, three thousand" before pulling his cord, instead murmuring, "Fired photographer jumps." "I felt a jerk on my shoulder and my chute was open. 'Fired photographer floats,' I said happily to myself." Stuck dangling in a tree all night, he didn't dare call out for help. "With my Hungarian accent, I stood an equal chance of being shot by either side."

Writing or clicking the shutter, Capa was the perfect conduit for his time, with the war's almost casual heroism, palpable danger, and the importance of every moment of life--whether lying in a foxhole or shopping in London at Dunhill's for a silver flask. Slightly Out of Focus is dotted with his pictures, including the most famous ones of the D day invasion. "I am a gambler," Capa writes. "I decided to go in with Company E in the first wave." Capa's priceless, self-deprecating text tells much, and his photographs show the rest: how thin the Europeans were in Italy, France, and Germany, for example, trim as saplings from years of deprivation. And then there's Capa's famous series showing the plump Frenchwoman, a German collaborator, marked for shame by her shaved head, hurrying past her taunting neighbors, all of whom are gaunt by comparison.

This is a war book, of course, but it will transfix documentary photographers. And this Modern Library edition, which links Capa with such great writers as Ernest Hemingway (whom he photographed wounded), confers suitable honor on his earthy genius. --Peggy Moorman

From the Back Cover:

"Capa's work is itself the picture of a great heart and an overwhelming compassion. . . . He could photograph motion and gaiety and heartbreak. He could photograph thought. He captured a world."
--John Steinbeck

"Above all--and this is what shows in his pictures--Capa, who spent
so much energy on inventions for his own person, has deep, human
sympathy for men and women trapped in reality."--John Hersey

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