Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The road less travelled

I first came across Jan Morris when I was volunteering at Seren a decade ago, finding myself involved in the production of a tribute volume edited by Paul Clements on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Ten years on and she's still going strong, celebrating another milestone birthday with an Artsnight interview with a similarly seasoned traveller, Michael Palin, and lauded by her biographer Derek Johns in an article for the Guardian.

The first successful ascent of Everest, the Suez Crisis, Adolf Eichmann's trial: Morris was there, initially finding fame as a journalist, but later even more acclaimed as the author of book-length meditations on places around the globe.

In conversation with Palin, Morris bristles at being branded a "travel writer" on the grounds that she wrote more about destinations than about journeys - but the journey for which she's probably most famous was the subject of a book. Conundrum tells the story of her transformation from James to Jan in the 1970s, for which she suffered incomprehension, prejudice and abuse arising from ignorance.

An intrepid traveller, in more ways than one.

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