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Other titles in the New York Review Books Classics series:
Havby Jan Morris
Synopses & Reviews
A New York Review Books Original
In 1985, the travel writer Jan Morris visited the storied city- state of Hav on assignment for New Gotham Magazine, writing a series of articles that were later published as Last Letters from Hav. She was there during the remarkable period that became known as the Intervention. In 2006 Morris returned to Hav to witness the changes that had occurred in the city, now a pariah nation ruled by radical nationalists who rewrote its rich history to reflect their own blinkered vision of the past. The story of Hav is the story of the modern world, but Hav is like no place on earth. In fact, it is wholly the product of Jan Morris’s prodigious imagination, built on the knowledge gained from her years of reporting from the great cities of Europe. As Jan Morris takes us along the streets of Hav, we hear its centuries-old morning trumpet call and the songs of its muezzin, we see the texture of the goods on offer at its markets, smell the odor of coffee and smoke drifting from its cafés. But Morris tells not only of Hav’s glorious past and quaint 20th-century iteration, in the chapters written in the 21st century, she brings the story up to date. In this final section of Hav, Morris looks at an almost unrecognizable land, stripped of its chaotic and contradictory splendor, renamed, and rebuilt. The place which was the culmination of history has become a simulacrum and a troubling symbol of our uneasy future.
"Taken for the real thing on its first publication in 1985, this faux-travel memoir prompted fruitless calls to confused travel agents. It's no wonder: Morris's imagination is a marvel, her spectral country fully realized and fascinating. Hav, an eastern Mediterranean peninsula, rises believably in the mind, with its city skyline of onion domes, minarets, and one incongruous pagoda along with its glorious and complex history. Hav's past is ingeniously, believably intertwined with real events; its present is realistically faded and isolated, adding to the eerie feeling one gets of spying on a lost world. While this sense of wonder is not quite enough to sustain interest in the absence of any plot, the book picks up toward the second half (which was added 20 years after the first) when a more sinister, dystopian tone takes over. After a mysterious, catastrophic 'Intervention,' a new society led by an obscure secret order assumes control, and Hav becomes a morally compromised hub of international wealth and influence. This section is more clearly a commentary, an 'analogy' as Morris (Conundrum) calls it, but both volumes are thought provoking and, in some ways at least, live up to Morris's description of Hav as 'a little compendium of the world's experience.' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A New York Review Books Original
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.
About the Author
Jan Morris has written some forty books, including Conundrum (published by NYRB Classics). She is an honorary D.Litt. of the University of Wales and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Ursula K. Le Guin has published novels, volumes of short stories, collections of essays, books for children, volumes of poetry and translation, and has received many awards. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
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