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Hav


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful combination of fiction and travel narrative
A travel book about a fictional city-state: what a fabulous conceit. Jan Morris handles it well, filling the book with details of the city -- its odd mishmash of cultural influences, its people, its architecture -- that made me wish I could visit. The pretense at many famous figures' involvement with Hav adds to the entertainment. And then the tragic changes, a city...
Published on 6 Nov 2009 by A. D. MacFarlane

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Jan Morris at her best
I found this book almost impossible to come to terms with. With a different approach - one that took places and their inhabitants far more seriously - there could have been something worthwhile here, but I found the approach slightly snobbish, often supercilious, annoyingly knowing, and irritatingly British middle class.

Too often in the book, foreigners are...
Published on 10 Dec 2011 by Triestino


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful combination of fiction and travel narrative, 6 Nov 2009
By 
A. D. MacFarlane (England, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hav (Paperback)
A travel book about a fictional city-state: what a fabulous conceit. Jan Morris handles it well, filling the book with details of the city -- its odd mishmash of cultural influences, its people, its architecture -- that made me wish I could visit. The pretense at many famous figures' involvement with Hav adds to the entertainment. And then the tragic changes, a city becoming more uniform and false, tourists remaining on one glitzy island away from the remains of the real city. I mourned for the destroyed Arab buildings and Chinese tower, though it pleased me to know that other people fear homogeneity. Overall, Hav is a fascinating book and well worth a read: a marvellous combination of fiction and travel narrative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good value, 30 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Hav (Paperback)
The book was excellent value and it arrived promptly. Service and product to be recommended. I would use this service again.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Farewell till then: I will go lose myself, and wander up and down to view the city.", 21 Oct 2011
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hav (Hardcover)
Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

The City-State of Hav is something of a mystical place. Nestled in critical cross-roads of the Mediterranean, Hav's history as a trading nation goes back to the ancient Greeks and in fact is rumored amongst some scholars to be the site of Troy. St. Paul's little-known Epistle to the Havians speaks of the inhabitants rather mercurial habits. Hav marked the furthest most expansion of olden Chinese trading settlements and that presence is still seen in some quarters. Hav's Russian, Italian, French, Chinese, Greek and Arabic neighborhoods all retain the ethnic and architectural flavors of the resident's ancestors. Hav's charms attracted, through the early years of the 20th-century some of the world's great celebrities all of whom feasted on Hav's rare snow raspberries.

Jan Morris, one of the world's great travel writers (amongst her other writing talents) has turned her keen eye for detail and her sharp prose to capture fully the flavor of the nation she first visited for six months in 1985. From her arrival in a train that courses down a mountainside through a dark, twisting tunnel custom built by the Russian's during their years in control of Hav to the haunting and beautiful Call to Prayer played by the great Hav musician, Missakian, on her first morning, Morris makes Hav come to life. You feel as if you are wandering the streets with her. You can sense the excitement as she watches Hav's annual Roof Race which course includes scaling buildings and leaping from roof to roof across the city. You can sense the danger on the day of her departure (the end of the first part of these memoirs) when you read about the fighter pilots screaming overhead as the infamous "Intervention" begins.

There's only one little point to keep in mind as you wander through Hav with Ms. Morris: Hav does not exist. Indeed, Hav is a fictional city created by Morris but treated by Morris throughout as a real place. When I picked up this book I was amused by Ursula Le Guin's brief but well-written introduction. I arched my eyebrows when I read that after the initial release of this book in the U.K. in 1985, travel agents received hundreds of requests, actually demands, for tours to Hav. I didn't really think of this as any more than exaggerated praise for a good writer. But, after reading both parts of Hav ("Last Letters from Hav" written in 1985 and "Hav of the Myrmidons", written in 2006) and despite knowing that Hav was no more real than Oz, I still wanted to go on line to book a trip to see this historic place. That is the power of the world that Morris has created.

Ms. Morris is the narrator and she takes us through her original six-month visit. At the risk of sounding a bit foolish I could not help thinking of Sim City when I read Hav. Sim City was/is a unique game in which you build and design your own city. Depending on the choice you make in housing, development, geography and so on the simulated city responds and grows in different ways. Morris has taken this one step further (the pen is mightier than a micro-chip apparently) and created not only her own city but also created a millennium of history for it. She has taken a two-dimensional simulation and added the dimension of a people and their characteristics and the dimension of time. The result is a remarkable four-dimensional look at a world that does not exist but which seems like it should exist.

There is no plot to speak of. However, the inclusion of "Hav of the Myrmidons" serves to put a bittersweet grace note to the end of the story of a nation and its peoples that put Last Letters from Hav in a contemporary context. Although there is no plot to spoil, I think it best for the reader to experience his/her journey through Hav with no additional details from me. In her Epilogue, Morris asks herself if there is one essential allegory to be found in her story of Hav. She responds that she does not know herself and "[j]ust as I wrote into the narrative my own meanings, bred by experience out of instinct, so I can only leave it to my readers, apologetically, to decide for themselves what it's all about." All I can suggest is that you will be well-served if you pick up this book and make your own journey. I am confident you will be glad you booked passage.

Highly recommended. Leonard Fleisig
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Jan Morris at her best, 10 Dec 2011
This review is from: Hav (Paperback)
I found this book almost impossible to come to terms with. With a different approach - one that took places and their inhabitants far more seriously - there could have been something worthwhile here, but I found the approach slightly snobbish, often supercilious, annoyingly knowing, and irritatingly British middle class.

Too often in the book, foreigners are treated as objects of amusement, and sometimes of ridicule. Jan Morris uses the opportunity to parade her very considerable and thoroughly admirable knowledge of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern history, but is weak and dismissive when it comes to modern and contemporary developments.

The result, for me at any rate, was sadly superficial. But for many of those who leaf through it on their hotel balconies in foreign parts as the sun goes down, nicely cooled G&T in hand, and an imported copy of The Times lying on the wickerwork table, with the crossword puzzle satisfyingly completed, it could well be a jolly good entertainment.

Those who want to read Jan Morris's writing at its best would be well advised to avoid this rather unsatisfactory attempt at fantasy, and read instead her excellent books on Venice, and especially her first-class survey of the history of the Venetian empire.
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Hav by Jan Morris (Paperback - 7 Jun 2007)
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