TRAVELS by Jan Morris


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For the peripatetic Morris (The World of Venice, 1961; The Presence of Spain, 1964; Places, 1973), travel has become what food is to an M. F. K. Fisher--a discipline and a devotion. Leading off this latest collection of travel pieces is her tribute to a celebrated 14th-century Moroccan predecessor, Ibn Batuta, who in 30 years of almost constant travel visited every comer of Islam--or, as he believed, ""every civilized country there was."" (Islam, Morris observes, ""was an entire manner of life. . . as though the Roman law, the Catholic faith, and the social nuances of the British Empire were all to be combined. . . ."") There is also an imagined trip ""On the Confederation Special"" from Toronto to Calgary in 1927 to commemorate 60 years of upright Canadian statehood (gangsters below the border, Mounties above) and a rainy-day journey ""Through My Guide-books"" of the past--Murray, Baedeker, the guides to the Great Siberian (1900) and Union Pacific (1881) railways. On her own, Morris lingers in Edinburgh, Bath, and especially Dublin--""one of the most truly exotic cities of the world,"" whose drumbeat she finds still defiantly different. But it is Singapore that most repays Morris' attention--a flash-wrapped futuristic city-state where the two avatars are Sir Stamford Raffles, who brought the island to life as a crossroads of Empire, and the present ruler Lee Kuan Yew, who has turned it into a sanitized manufacturing machine. In Places, Morris tolled the knell of the professional traveler; Travels, less romantic, says otherwise.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1976
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich