- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (7 Jun. 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571229840
- ISBN-13: 978-0571229840
- Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.9 x 19.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hav Paperback – 7 Jun 2007
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'It is a testament to Morris's skill and charm that one stays
convinced for so long.' -- Christina Koning, The Times, June 9, 2007
'Morris evokes Hav in such vivid and atmospheric prose, littered
with historical and geographical detail.' -- Sunday Times, July 8, 2007
'Portraits of an unreal place, so richly and wittily imagined that
you'll want to book a weekend break.' -- Independent, July 2, 2007
When the world's foremost travel writer describes the small city-state of Hav, it is unlike any of her other books. For Hav exists only in one special place - Jan Morris's imagination.See all Product description
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Morris has drawn upon her entire career and has distilled from it a master class in travel writing. She has drawn from bits and pieces of every corner of the globe to create Hav, but this is not just some alternate world fantasy. It is an alternate world travel book, which means she observes and tweaks all of the honored conventions - a physical description of the city's layout and geological and geographical highlights, close looks at hidden neighborhoods, accounts of conversations with the locals, summaries of important historical events, accounts of local meals, commentaries about local politics and culture, and thrilling recaps of local traditions and competitions.
This is sly, accomplished, supremely competent and assured craft, and will please a reader both as a work of imagination and as a commentary on the process and substance of travel writing. A satisfying and rewarding find.
So she wrote the second section and the book in this form was published in 2006. I have something of a soft spot for well-conceived imaginary places – but this is a tour de force. Morris has not only written extensively about the physical geography, describing the buildings and topographical features – she has also provided a vivid historical and political backdrop. During the first section of the book, Hav is a comparative backwater. Athough situated geographically between East and West, it is a cultural and political melting pot with a number of immigrants from France, Turkey, Greece, China, India – as well as the mysterious indigenous cave-dwelling population… She captures Hav’s faded splendour and idiosyncratic customs, many originating centuries ago when Hav was part of the Silk Route and Venice had a series of warehouses backed by powerful merchanting families to protect their valuable assets. Though I constantly had to remind myself as I got caught up in the welter of small details Morris continually drops into her narrative – Hav doesn’t exist.
All this is impressive enough – but for me, the genius of this book is what happens in the second half after the Intervention. Morris revisits Hav and charts how it has changed since the… um – Intervention. No one would be stupidly crass enough to use the word invasion… And indeed, Life for many of Hav’s population has changed for the better. The harbour and merchandising section of the town is now far busier and more dynamic. Hav’s unique snow raspberries are now being industrially produced, canned and exported around the world as a luxury item, instead of being picked wild by the indigenous population and sold at premium rates to the best hotels for food connoisseurs. But people are reluctant to talk openly to Morris – even people she’d known well during her six month stay back in the 1980’s – and they are certainly reluctant to say anything remotely critical about the current regime.
Morris makes a note of the differences between the old Hav and the post-Intervention version, both physical and cultural. The picture she builds of a newly emerging society that has been blown apart and reformed is detailed, nuanced and wholly realistic. The overall result is unique, clever and extremely thought provoking – especially as I’m sure that we can see reflected in Hav’s journey, echoes of many other similar real places scattered around the globe. This remarkable book keeps scrolling through my head whenever I’m not thinking about other stuff – and I have no doubt at all that it is one of my outstanding reads of the year. If geographical politics interests you on any level at all, track it down. It’s worth reading.
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