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No one, since the days of the great Arab travelers, has described so much of the known world as Jan Morris. Considered by many the preeminent travel writer of our age, she now offers this retrospective selection of her best writings. Including 37 pieces, several of which have never appeared in book form before, these essays cover Morris' entire career from the 1950s to the present, spanning the globe from China to Peru, from Beirut to Houston, and from Leningrad to Manhattan. Writing with elegance, passion, and wit, she captures the complex personality of each city, whether familiar or exotic. In the Preface, she clarifies her purpose: "First to last, the world never ceased to astonish me, and I hope at least a little of that power to amaze, if nothing more profound, may be found between the covers of this book."
Continuing the journey on foot across Europe begun in A Time of Gifts Between the Woods and the Water begins where its predecessor, A Time of Gifts, leaves off--in 1934, with the nineteen-year-old Patrick Leigh Fermor standing on a bridge crossing the Danube between Hungary and Slovakia. A trip downriver to Budapest follows, along with passage on horseback across the Great Hungarian Plain, and a crossing of the Romanian border into Transylvania. Remote castles, villages, monasteries, and mountains that are the haunts of bears, wolves, eagles, gypsies, and sundry religious sects are all savored in the approach to the Iron Gates, on the border of Yugoslavia and Romania. This ruggedly beautiful and historic stretch of the Danube has since been lost beneath the waters of an immense hydroelectric power plant--as indeed so much of the old Europe that Leigh Fermor's pages so vividly evoke was soon to be destroyed in World War II. Patrick Leigh Fermor is a writer of inexhaustible charm, learning, and verbal resource who possesses a breathtaking ability to sketch a landscape, limn a portrait, and bring the past to life. Between the Woods and the Water, part of an extraordinary work in progress that has already been acclaimed as a classic of English literature, is a triumph of his art. For this tale of youthful adventure is at the same time an exploration of the dream and reality of Europe, a book of wanderings that wends its way in and out of history and natural history, art and literature, with the tireless curiosity--and winning fecklessness--of its young protagonist, even as it opens haunting vistas into time and space.
A first book by the author of "Fifty Years of Europe" finds its writer, living a very different identity and having recently reported on the first Everest ascent in 1953, traveling by various means across the United States and witnessing first hand the country's optimism and comparative innocence.
The great travel writer Jan Morris was born James Morris. James Morris distinguished himself in the British military, became a successful and physically daring reporter, climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and established a reputation as a historian of the British empire. He was happily married, with several children. To all appearances, he was not only a man, but a man's man.Except that appearances, as James Morris had known from early childhood, can be deeply misleading. James Morris had known all his conscious life that at heart he was a woman.Conundrum, one of the earliest books to discuss transsexuality with honesty and without prurience, tells the story of James Morris--s hidden life and how he decided to bring it into the open, as he resolved first on a hormone treatment and, second, on risky experimental surgery that would turn him into the woman that he truly was.
May 29, 1953: Edward Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first reach the summit of Mount Everest, and nearly the Coronation Day for a new Queen, Elizabeth II. Breaking the story was James Morris, special correspondent for The Times, who met the victorious climbers at Camp IV at 20,000 feet. Morris known to millions of readers today as the travel essayist Jan Morris, wrote this account of the Hillary expedition with all the verve and sharp detail for which Jan Morris is famous.
Hav is like no place on earth. Rumored to be the site of Troy, captured during the crusades and recaptured by Saladin, visited by Tolstoy, Hitler, Grace Kelly, and Princess Diana, this Mediterranean city-state is home to several architectural marvels and an annual rooftop race that is a feat of athleticism and insanity. As Jan Morris guides us through the corridors and quarters of Hav, we hear the mingling of Italian, Russian, and Arabic in its markets, delight in its famous snow raspberries, and meet the denizens of its casinos and cafés. When Morris published Last Letters from Hav in 1985, it was short-listed for the Booker Prize. Here it is joined by Hav of the Myrmidons, a sequel that brings the story up-to-date. Twenty-first-century Hav is nearly unrecognizable. Sanitized and monetized, it is ruled by a group of fanatics who have rewritten its history to reflect their own blinkered view of the past. Morris's only novel is dazzlingly sui-generis, part erudite travel memoir, part speculative fiction, part cautionary political tale. It transports the reader to an extraordinary place that never was, but could well be.
The opening volume of Morris's "Pax Britannica Trilogy," this richly detailed work traces the rise of the British Empire, from the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837 to the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
First published in 1988, Hong Kong is a portrait of the British Empire's last, most anachronistic outpost, as the countdown to the handover gathers momentum. Written with her trademark elegance and panache, Morris depicts a city tragically suspended between a colonial past and the uncertainties of China's future. 'It is difficult to think of anyone who could recount this tale with such authority, elegance and sensitivity as Jan Morris . . . Here, she portrays what has always been Britain's most adjective-defying colony . . . Morris so clearly likes the place, but she is not sentimental, nor is she blind to Hong Kong's flaws; she is aware of rootlessness in the teeming energy. ' TLS'The book captures the contradictions and mad terror of Hong Kong better than could a novel - it's a dramatic documentary . . . ' Evening Standard'The definitive study. ' Washington Post
This collection is rather in the nature of a mystery tour, when you make your booking without knowing your destination. It describes a jumbled succession of journeys offered without benefit of itinerary, some to places far away and exotic, some to places more familiar. Their only unity is a unity of time, for they are nearly all journeys of the early 1980s. It has been a bewildering decade so far--ominous, too--so perhaps it is only proper that such a contemporary expedition should promise no certainty of a ticket home!
With a fresh eye and inimitable style, the peerless travel and history writer Jan Morris journeys through the life of Abraham Lincoln to sketch an insightful new portrait of America's sixteenth president, one of our greatest and most enigmatic figures. Looking past his saintly image and log-cabin legend, Morris travels from Lincoln's birthplace to the White House to the infamous Ford Theater and conjures him in public and in private, as politician and as father, as commander-in-chief and as husband. With her skepticism and humor and marvelous sense of place, Morris seamlessly blends narrative, history, and biography to reveal the man behind the myth.
On June 25, 1945, 14,000 American service men and women sailed into New York aboard the British liner Queen Mary. They were the first big contingent to return from the victory over Nazi Germany, and the city that awaited them stood at a historical climax of power, confidence, hope, and prestige, still curiously laced with a provincial innocence. In this new book by one of the most gifted stylists in the English language, we disembark at Manhattan with the returning GIs, and discover for ourselves how the city was. We ride the vanished trolleys, the El, the Hudson River ferry-boats. We meet characters as disparate as developer Robert Moses, Sherman Billingsley of the Stork Club, painter Jackson Pollock, and Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village denizen who claimed to speak the seagull language. We explore Harlem and the Lower East Side, we inspect the menu at the legendary Le Pavillon, we board the Twentieth Century Limited, and we swoon to Sinatra at Radio City Music Hall. Few aspects of Manhattan are neglected in Jan Morris's affectionate evocation--slum and Social Register are both here, City College and Times Square, the genius of the New York School and the panache of the New York Fire Department. Manhattan '45 gets its title, so the author tells us in her epilogue, because it sounds "partly like a kind of gun, and partly like champagne," and in these pages the victorious, celebratory, and explosive Manhattan of four decades ago finds a permanent souvenir.
King James I once said that if he were not a king he would like to be an Oxford man. This classic volume -- now in its third edition -- recounts the character, history, mores, buildings, climate, and people of an uncategorizable city. Exploring this ancient British crossroads beside the Thames, Jan Morris -- a distinguished travel writer and novelist--focuses on the richly-mixed heritage of city and University, replete with ongoing battles between "Town and Gown." She investigates the spirit and pride of each individual Oxford college; offers detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna, especially in the Oxford Botanical Garden, the oldest of its kind in Great Britain; depicts the pleasures and recreations, as well as the education and scholarship, of the students; and traces the city and the University's Christian roots. Her witty prose reveals the Oxford which gave the world the MG sports car and educated twenty-two British Prime Ministers. This newly revised edition brings up to date a portrait of a small city which has given its name to a marmalade, bags, a gray, shoes, a Group, a Movement, a dictionary, and an accent.
Morris's account of her sex-change operation, is intended as a celebration of personal pleasures, everyday sensual experiences, and her political and social viewpoints.
In "Sydney", Jan Morris, one of the great historians and travelers of our time, penetrates the mysteries and complexities of this seductive city as only she can. Built upon a penal colony, its first citizens British criminals and wardens, "Sydney" is a city that bears the mark of its hard-knocks history. Morris brilliantly weaves the past out of the present, finding ghosts of the city's rebellious founders in the vibrancy and pluck of today's populace. Imagine a mix of brashness and worldly chic, good humor and jealousy, calm and aggression. Such is "Sydney", a wealth of contradiction. One thing is clear, though, and incontrovertible: Here is one of the most visually stunning cities in the world.
In 1933 Patrick Leigh Fermor was eighteen. Expelled from school for a flirtation with a local girl, he headed to London to set up as a writer, only to find that dream harder to realize than expected. Then he had the idea of leaving his troubles behind; he would "change scenery; abandon London and England and set out across Europe like a tramp . . . travel on foot, sleep in hayricks in summer, shelter in barns when it was raining or snowing and only consort with peasants and tramps." Shortly after, Leigh Fermor shouldered his rucksack and set forth on the extraordinary trek that was to take him up the Rhine, down the Danube, and on to Constantinople. It was the journey of a lifetime, after which neither Leigh Fermor nor, tragically, Europe would ever be the same, and out of it came a work of literature that is as ambitious and absorbing as it is without peer. The young Leigh Fermor had a prodigious talent for friendship, keen powers of observation, and the courage of an insatiable curiosity--raw material from which he later fashioned a book that is a story of youthful adventure, an evocation of a now-vanished world, and a remarkable unfolding of the history and culture of Central Europe. Taking in not just haylofts but mountain heights, country houses as well as cottages, with stops along the way in the great cities of Hamburg, Munich, Vienna, and Prague, A Time of Gifts is a radiant evocation of people and places and one of the glories of modern English prose.The story of Patrick Leigh Fermor's trip continues in Between the Woods and the Water.
One hundred years ago, Trieste was the chief seaport of the entire Austro-Hungarian empire, but today many people have no idea where it is. This fascinating Italian city on the Adriatic, bordering the former Yugoslavia, has always tantalized Jan Morris with its moodiness and melancholy. She has chosen it as the subject of this, her final work, because it was the first city she knew as an adult -- initially as a young soldier at the end of World War II, and later as an elderly woman. This is not only her last book, but in many ways her most complex as well, for Trieste has come to represent her own life with all its hopes, disillusionments, loves and memories. Jan Morris evokes Trieste's modern history -- from the long period of wealth and stability under the Habsburgs, through the ambiguities of Fas-cism and the hardships of the Cold War. She has been going to Trieste for more than half a century and has come to see herself reflected in it: not just her interests and preoccupations -- cities, empires, ships and animals -- but her intimate convictions about such matters as patriotism, sex, civility and kindness. Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere is the culmination of a singular career.
Inspired by the many images of animals and birds in the city of Venice, the author describes the history and mythology of the beautiful Italian city.
"The career of Jan Morris began auspiciously enough fifty years ago "with an imperial exploit" that burst like a salvo into newspapers throughout the world. Assigned by The Times of London to cover the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, "the supreme mountain of the world," Morris was the only reporter allowed on Sir John Hunt's expedition. Morris's great "scoop," published in London on June 2, 1953, the very morning of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, not only marked the beginning of a "new Elizabethan age," but also established the twenty-six-year-old as the foremost travel essayist of the age." "Fifty years later, we now have The World, which provides us with as complete an overview of Morris's work as we will ever see. Dividing the volume into five decades, Morris presents history with an unparalleled dramatic flair, creating a riveting portrait of the twentieth century, from the political idealism of the postwar years to its more recent tensions and excesses. With characteristic nuance and keen perspective, Morris makes vast cities seem almost three-dimensional - re-creating moods and smells, describing people and history with an immediacy that makes you feel you are there. From Manhattan to Sydney, Hong Kong to Trieste, Morris reports on a world capable of producing limitless hope and soul-darkening despair - from the promise of Sputnik to the ravages of AIDS, and all manner of things in-between." "In the range of essays, we are allowed to look in on her life as well, the slow but inexorable progression from youth to old age, as we experience the personal and historical changes wrought by the passage of time. The cumulative effect becomes, at once, a deep insight into the fragile skein that connects our globe and into the sensibility of one of its greatest chroniclers.
Through an exploration of her country home in Wales, acclaimed travel writer Jan Morris discovers the heart of her fascinating country and what it means to be Welsh. Trefan Morys, Morris's home between the sea and mountains of the remote northwest corner of Wales, is the 18th-century stable block of her former family house nearby. Surrounding it are the fields and outbuildings, the mud, sheep, and cattle of a working Welsh farm. She regards this modest building not only as a reflection of herself and her life, but also as epitomizing the small and complex country of Wales, which has defied the world for centuries to preserve its own identity. Morris brilliantly meditates on the beams and stone walls of the house, its jumbled contents, its sounds and smells, its memories and inhabitants, and finally discovers the profoundest meanings of Welshness.
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