Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

November 02, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

The World: Travels 1950-2000, by Jan Morris. Norton, 480 pages. $27.95.

Morris was 24 in 1953 when The Times of London published the first piece in this magnificent anthology -- a first-person report from the British expedition that conquered Mount Everest. The epilogue is a paean to kindness, the consummate value that Morris finds sound and enduring at age 75 -- an essay written at the end of a final round-the-world tour that ended again at home in Wales on the day before Sept. 11, 2001. In between are articles and excerpts from the lifetime of the person whom many very well-credentialed critics declare to be the finest travel writer to have written in English in the second half of the 20th century. In the prologue, Morris writes that this book "begins with a bit of a bang, and if it ends more modestly, well, fifty years of a writing and wandering life would make most people a little quieter in the end. Even the thrush sings with careless rapture only when the day is young." Taken as a whole, it is a moving, instructive and inimitable portrait of the Earth and its people. Taken in bits and snatches here and there, it is a book from which one can take delight for a lifetime.

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