SYDNEY by Jan Morris


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 Clean-limbed description of the great port by Morris (O Canada, p. 307, etc.). Morris now sees Sydney as one of the most important cities of the world, ``not the most beautiful...but the most hyperbolic, the youngest in heart, the shiniest.'' Sydney's classy new Opera House is a world-famed structure, and the city's suburbs have spread so vastly that the metropolitan area now twice exceeds that of Beijing and is six times as large as Rome. The people of Sydney are generally seen, Morris says, as ``an esoteric subspecies of Briton- -sunburnt, healthy, loud, generous, misogynist, beery, lazy, capable, racist and entertaining, strutting along beaches wearing bathing caps and carrying banners, exchanging badinage or war memoirs in raw colonial slang, jeering at unfortunate Englishmen at cricket matches they nearly always won.'' The natives of Australia have lived near Sydney Harbor for 20,000 years, she tells us, though Western-style civilization did not begin until Cook of the Royal Navy arrived in 1770. Not long after, British convicts were exiled there in great numbers and found a tough, lonely life, thinking themselves, Morris says, almost on the moon. The author finds an epiphany in the aborigines, a sense of transience or yearning that ``in some way charges the place'' and that moved D.H. Lawrence to detect in their eyes and their visionary tie with the land the ``incomprehensible ancient shine.'' Nonetheless, Morris still feels Sydney to be ``on the edge of some more metaphysical blank...It does not seem an introspective place....[and] has never been overburdened with spirituality.'' Sydney's one unassailable satisfaction: ``the beauty of its harbor....[In] the velvet sensual darkness...I sometimes feel myself haunted by a sense of loss, as though time is passing too fast, and frail black people are watching me out of the night somewhere, leaning on their spears.'' The old dazzle still at work.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-394-55098-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992


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