‘Book lovers will understand me, and they will know too that part of the pleasure of a library lies in its very existence.’
– Jan Morris
An event presented alongside the British Library celebrating the life of RSL Fellow Jan Morris on the first anniversary of her death.
With friends and admirers of her work, we will journey through Jan’s writing life via the summit of Mount Everest, the canals of Venice, occupied Trieste, and rural North Wales. Pico Iyer, CN Lester and RSL Fellow Sarah Moss will join Shahidha Bari to discuss Jan’s remarkable impact and ongoing influence on literature today.
Jan Morris FRSL was born in 1926 of a Welsh father and an English mother, and when she was not travelling she lived with her partner, Elizabeth Morris, in the top left-hand corner of Wales, between the mountains and the sea.
Her books include Coronation Everest, Venice, The Pax Britannica Trilogy (Heaven’s Command, Pax Britannica, and Farewell the Trumpets), and her memoir, Conundrum. She is also the author of six books about cities and countries, two autobiographical books, several volumes of collected travel essays and the unclassifiable Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere. A collection of her travel writing and reportage from over five decades, A Writer’s World, was published in 2003. Her novel, Hav, was published in a new and expanded form in 2006. She died at the age of 94 in 2020. Allegorizings, a reflection on key moments and memories from Morris’ eventful life, will be published by Faber on 4 November 2021.
CN Lester is an academic, multi-disciplinary musician, and leading UK LGBTI activist and author of Trans Like Me (Virago, 2016), an agenda-setting an emotionally engaging book on transgender identity which shows us how to strive for authenticity in a world which often seeks to limit us by way of labels. They curate the ‘Transpose’ arts event for Barbican and work internationally as a trans and feminist educator and speaker. Their work has featured on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, SBS, The Guardian, ABC, The Independent, Newsnight, and at Sydney Opera House. Lester co-founded the first-ever national UK group for young LGBT people.
Pico Iyer, “arguably the world’s greatest living travel writer,” according to Outside magazine, is the author of 15 books of fiction and non-fiction, translated into 23 languages. He has been a regular essayist for 35 years for Time, The New York Times, Harper’s, The Los Angeles Times and more than 250 periodicals worldwide. He has also written a screenplay for Miramax, many liner-notes for Leonard Cohen and the introductions to more than 70 other books. On-screen, his four talks for TED have received more than 11 million views so far. Most recently, in the summer of 2019, he served as Ferris Professor at Princeton University, Guest Director of the Telluride Film Festival and the first official writer-in-residence at Raffles Hotel Singapore.
Sarah Moss FRSL is the author of eight novels including the Sunday Times top ten bestseller Summerwater, and Ghost Wall, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize and shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. She has also written a memoir of her year living in Iceland. She was born in Glasgow and grew up in the north of England. After moving between Oxford, Canterbury, Reykjavik, west Cornwall and the Midlands, she now lives in Dublin, where she teaches English and creative writing at UCD. Her new novel, The Fell, is published by Picador in November 2021.
Shahidha Bari is Professor of Fashion Cultures and Histories at the University of the Arts London, the author of Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes, and a Presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking, the Arts and Ideas podcast.