Hav, by Jan Morris, got a great review in Bookslut, one of our favorite literary blogs. Here’s an excerpt:
“The reader follows Morris as she tries to navigate this unreal city, with its multifarious architectural styles, Babel of languages, mélange of smells and sounds. She familiarizes herself with its cafes, its music, its trademark urchin soup and snow raspberries. She attends the Roof Race (which is exactly what it sounds like), and her descriptions of the frenzy of the crowd tearing through the city to follow the athletes running and jumping across alleyways above is among the more riveting parts of the novel.
One could go on for some length and is tempted to, for Morris’s prose is so resplendent and exacting in its erudition and craftsmanship. Her knowledge of Mediterranean history and culture shines through on every page, and her attention to seemingly minor details, such as witnessing two elderly Buddhist monks alone in a crowd of merchants purchasing saffron, for instance, preserve the veneer of an ‘official’ travel narrative.
Ultimately, though, Hav is a place utterly fluid, where identity is consistent only in its Heraclitean flux. History swirls around Hav, yet always inchoate, subject to the whims, distortions, and sedimented agendas of countless peoples of countless factions over countless years. And like that other fictional city Bellona, Hav is a mystery in which nothing is as it seems — or maybe everything is exactly as it seems until it changes into something else, until over time everything possible in human history has already happened, is still happening, and will happen again. Last Letters from Hav, indeed, ends with a cataclysm known as the Intervention, the details of which the reader is never entirely informed.”