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by Jan Morris

Discussed August 2012

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  1. Now that you’ve read it, are you surprised that Hav was suggested for the LSF Book Discussion Group? How would you classify Hav? In her Introduction to the NYRB edition, Ursula K. LeGuin says she considers it to be science fiction. Do you agree?
  2. Regardless of how you’ve classified Hav, did you enjoy it? Why or why not?
  3. It’s often said that one of the benefits of speculative fiction is that it allows us to examine aspects of our world or our society (or of the human condition) through the guise of something else. Does Hav perform this function? If so, how?
  4. One of the hallmarks of speculative fiction is world-building. Would you consider Hav an example of successful world-building?
  5. Last Letters from Hav was written in 1985. Hav of the Myrmidons was written in 2006. How do the two parts compare?
  6. Jan Morris herself is the POV character in Hav. Would you consider this to be LGBT content?

Recognition for Hav:

  • Last Letters from Hav (1985) – shortlisted for the Booker Prize (awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe)
  • Hav (2006) – shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (best SF novel first published in the UK during the previous year)

Short Bio

James Morris (now Jan Morris) was born in October 1926 in Somerset, England (English mother and Welsh father). Morris served in WW2 in the 9th Queen ’s Royal Lancers. In 1945, Morris was posted to the Free Territory of Trieste during the joint Anglo-American occupation. Later, as a correspondent for The Times, he accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on the first expedition to scale Mount Everest in 1953 and his coded message to the newspaper was released to the public on the morning of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Morris reported from Cyprus on the Suez Crisis in 1956, producing the first "irrefutable proof" of collusion between France and Israel in the invasion of Egyptian territory.

In 1949, James Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss; they had five children together. In 1964, Morris began medical transition and in 1972 traveled to Morocco to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Doctors in Britain refused to allow the procedure unless Morris and Tuckniss divorced, which they were not prepared to do at that time. Jan Morris and Elizabeth Tuckniss divorced later but remained together; and in May 2008 they were legally reunited in a civil partnership.

Morris lives mostly in Wales. In 1999 Queen Elizabeth made her a Companion of the British Empire; and Morris accepted "out of polite respect." (She is a Welsh nationalist republican at heart.) Until the 1970s, Morris was published under her former name (James Morris). She is well-known for the "Pax Britannica Trilogy," a history of the British Empire, portraits of various cities (Oxford, Venice, Trieste, Hong Kong, NYC), and lots of travel literature.

Select Bibliography

  • Pax Britannica Trilogy
    • Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress (1973)
    • Pax Britannica: The Climax of Empire (1968)
    • Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat (1978)
  • Coast to Coast (1956)
  • Venice (1960)
  • The Venetian Empire (1980)
  • The Matter of Wales (1984)
  • Hong Kong (1988)
  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere (2001)
  • A Writer’s House in Wales (2002)
  • The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000 (2003)
  • Contact! A Book of Encounters (2010)
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