Hav by Jan Morris - review by Andrew Lycett

Andrew Lycett

The Meaning of Nowhere

Hav

By

Faber & Faber 299pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

If I did not know better, I might have thought Jan Morris had been watching too many episodes of The Prisoner. Why else, after announcing her intention to stop writing books, has she again picked up her pen, returned to Hav, the fictional city-state she lovingly created twenty-one years ago, and refashioned it as a malign dystopia?

Portmeirion, the Welsh village where Patrick McGoohan’s television series was filmed, is situated not far from Morris’s fastness at Llanystumdwy. The Prisoner used Clough Williams-Ellis’s pastiche architecture as the backdrop for the sinister machinations of a Kafkaesque bureaucracy obscurely related to British intelligence.

Something similar has become of Hav. When Morris last reported from there in Last Letters from Hav (1985), it was a quaint destination, lost in a time-warp somewhere between Trieste, Salonika and Beirut. Its sleepy Levantine confusion was made bearable by the richness of its customs and history, which drew

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