Last Letters from Hav by Jan Morris

Untitled 10.jpg This may be not only the most boring, but also the most pointless book that I have ever read. I don’t read travelogues so I don’t know if this is good or bad by those standards, though Jan Morris, in the eighties, was one of the most respected travel writers.

The unfortunate, weird, and amazing thing about this one is that the city of Hav does not exist. This is a travel novel of Ms. Morris spending four months in a city that she made up. She mentions famous people that have visited this city (Hitler, Marco Polo, President Nixon, Darwin, etc.) and quotes authors who supposedly visited and wrote about Hav, including Mark Twain. She even includes some made up biblical references from Paul condemning the city.

The city is definitely a strange place and imagined with such realism that it seems like it could be real – there are actually a number of people who were rather upset when they realized they could not visit Hav.

Nothing happens. The city is decidedly banal (seemingly by design – both from its citizens and from the author) and the prose is abstruse and bloated. It is all descriptions of pedestrian settings or buildings that are not quite spectacular enough for tourists to have heard about it. If this was a city that I planned on visiting someday I might slog through it for ideas for what to do there. If I liked to live vicariously through other people’s adventures (is there any other reason that people read travel novels?) I probably wouldn’t get very far – it isn’t an adventure. As it is there is nothing to recommend it and I find myself questioning why I even bothered to finish it.


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