Slightly Out of Focus

by Robert Capa

Hardcover, 1947




New York, H. Holt [1947]


The photographer and author recalls his experiences during World War II.

User reviews

LibraryThing member eveso
This was a great book! Funny and entertaining, yet thought provoking. Robert Capa is possibly the greatest war photographer who ever lived. This book gives some insight into his mentality, without talking too much about photography.
LibraryThing member Craiglea
Last year I read Robert Capa’s wartime memoir Slightly Out of Focus for the first time. It certainly won’t be the last time I read this book.

What immediately impressed me is Capa’s ability to turn a phrase. He generally presents himself in a sardonic pose, but also writes beautifully and with great compassion, for example when describing his mother’s ambivalence towards him going to war again.

“She was a very torn mother that morning, hoping for my sake I would succeed in getting the various permits and get away; for her own motherheart, praying that something would go wrong and that I would not be able to go off to war again.”

That single word motherheart sums up so much of the relationship between a parent and child.

Or describing the night before D-Day…

“Once a year, usually in April, every self-respecting Jewish family celebrates Passover, the Jewish Thanksgiving.

When dinner is irrevocably over, father loosens his belt and lights a five-cent cigar. At this crucial moment the youngest of his sons—I have been doing it for year—and addresses his father in column Hebrew. He asks, “What makes this day different from all other days?” Then father, with great relish and gusto, tells the story of how, many thousands of years ago in Egypt, the angel of destruction passed over the firstborn sons of the Chosen People, and how, afterwards, General Moses led them across the Red Sea without getting their feet wet.

The Gentiles and Jews who crossed the English Channel on the sixth of June 1944, landing with very wet feet on the beach in Normandy called “Easy Red,” ought to have—once a year, on that date—a Crossover day. Their children would ask their father, “What makes this day different from all other days?” The story that I would tell might sound like this:”

When he does describe his part in the D-Day landings, the full horror of that battle is made clear, and Capa does not spare himself in describing how he had an option to leave the beach and took it, unlike the other soldiers dying around him.

When I started to read this book I expected it would be about photography, but Robert Capa was also a fine writer and produced a touching and funny description of the events he took part in. I just couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it.
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LibraryThing member emed0s
What a welcome surprise it was the quality of his writing, how unsurprising but also welcome the fact that he was tutored by Hemingway. So while not on the same level as Papa, and being a little too adept at using contrasting images for effect, his writing is effective even if devoid of adjective laden descriptions.

Regarding the stories told in the book, somehow the war is the main theme but Capa's gregarious personality takes over, both because it's that personality that allows him make personal connections and get where others couldn't and because he comes out of every story as a quite an enchanting rascal.

For me it was a plus that he doesn't try to explain the whole where, when and how of each campaign and battle, all of them being extensively covered in the abundant WWII literature. This is very much a first person book and all that matters is finding the proper cover for the time being and checking the contents of the flask.

The photographs appear in the pages right next to the passages narrating the time when Capa took them, which I find a much more interesting setup than the common amalgamation of pictures towards the middle of the book.
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LibraryThing member elleayess
Slightly Out Of Focus is a book by the famous, and in my opinion the best, World War II Europhean Theater photographer. Capa's book takes the reader on his journey (if briefly) of photojournaling WWII, from the Battle of the North Atlantic, to D-Day in Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, the crossing of the Rhine all the way to Leipzig. Capa narrates each event, and then some, and the book is full of Capa's striking and emotional photography. Everyone who has experienced the war sees it through different eyes, in this book, you are looking through Capa's eyes (and lens, for that matter). The book is a quick, easy read, definately worth it for WWII buffs.… (more)


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