The arboreal artworks of Alex Katz come to Tate Liverpool
to skinny-dip in their swimming pools. At Yale, she and her friend Katrina Heron prided themselves on giving the best parties, a tradition she continued when she moved to London. ‘Parties formed around her,’ said one friend.
I was amazed to find that in her twenties she had had a relationship with Lucien Carr, the literary catalyst for the Beat Generation writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. He was one of many, but Marie never found a man who could make her happy, despite marrying twice and at one point reuniting with her first husband. The diaries she kept during the break-up of her second marriage, to the Bolivian journalist Juan Carlos Gumucio, reveal her vulnerability. ‘All my anger and rage at Juan Carlos is rage at loss, the lost life we might have had, the joy and love that are gone,’ she wrote.
Marie was killed by a Syrian government mortar, targeted on the rebel media centre where she was staying in Baba Amr. Now she is being immortalised on screen. It was a strange experience to see the feature film, A Private War, because Rosamund Pike has managed to inhabit Marie in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible. She has reproduced the angular way in which Marie moved as well as her mannerisms and tricks of speech. Watching Under the Wire, the drama-documentary based on Paul Conroy’s memoir of those terrible final days, was more distressing. Paul’s account, illustrated by eerie reconstructions and found footage, gives a terrifying glimpse of Marie’s last days and hours under bombardment in Baba Amr. It catapulted me back to the week before, as we left the restaurant and kissed goodbye before going to our respective hotels.
Although writing her biography has, in a way, brought her back to life for me, nearly seven years on, it’s still hard to accept that our dinner together in Beirut really was our last. Lindsey Hilsum is the international editor for Channel 4 News. Her book, ‘In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin’, is published by Chatto & Windus on 1 November. ‘A Private War’ is out in cinemas later this year. ‘Under the Wire’ is available on iTunes and Sky Store.
Above: Colvin interviewing villagers in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2007.Right: as a debutante in 1973. Below: on the day of her wedding to JuanCarlos Gumucio