20 November 2020 20:42
LONDON, Nov 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Travel writer and transgender pioneer Jan Morris, who as a journalist broke the 1953 news of Edmund Hillary's conquest of Everest, has died at the age of 94. Her son Twm Morys in a statement on Friday said: "This morning at 11.40 at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, on the Llyn, the author and traveller Jan Morris began her greatest journey. Morris, who first published under the name James, switched to Jan after undergoing gender reassignment in 1972 and was the author of more than three dozen books. Her books include "Manhattan '45," about New York in 1945, "Venice", the "Pax Britannica" trilogy about the decline of the British Empire, and "Conundrum" about her transition. Born in Somerset, England, in 1926, Morris and her partner Elizabeth had five children - including the Welsh poet and musician Twm Morys - and had remained together since their 1949 marriage.
It's got my own epitaph, which is 'Here are two friends - Jan and Elizabeth Morris - at the end of one life.'" "What a life, and what a writer," said author and journalist Sathnam Sanghera on Twitter. (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Jan Morris, the writer and transgender pioneer, was born in Somerset on 2 October 1926, the youngest of three siblings with a Welsh father from a line of "decent, proud people" and an English mother whose family of "modest country squires" was from the Mendips. She served in Italy, Egypt and Palestine and after the war did a course in Arabic before working for a short while as a reporter for an Arab news agency in Cairo. Morris never doubted that she had a vocation as a writer and during her 10 years of journalism worked for the Arab News Agency in Cairo, The Times (1951-56) and The Manchester Guardian (1957-62), which became The Guardian during her time at the paper.
From a base in France she wrote several books: Sultan in Oman (1957), The Market of Suleika (1957), South African Winter (1958) and The Hashemite Kings (1959) while continuing as a journalist for The Guardian, a paper on which she never felt completely at ease. When Venice was published in 1960 she was finally able to give up journalism and write books full-time. Morris claimed to have visited every major city in the world: "I have tried to get the hang of many cities." And Cities (1963), Oxford (1965), Sydney (1992) and Trieste (2001) are some of her "city" books. The Pax Britannica trilogy, which Morris considered "the best thing I've done", took 10 years to write and was published between 1968 and 1978. "I don't think there is a writer alive who has Jan Morris's serenity or strength," wrote Paul Theroux about Destinations. NEW YORK (AP) — Jan Morris, the celebrated journalist, historian, world traveler and fiction writer who in middle age became a pioneer of the transgender movement, has died at 94. Morris died in Wales on Friday morning, according to her literary representative, United Agents. The British author lived as James Morris until the early 1970s, when she underwent surgery at a clinic in Casablanca and renamed herself Jan Morris. Morris was a prolific and accomplished author and journalist who wrote dozens of books in a variety of genres and was a first-hand witness to history. Morris went on to receive praise for her immersive travel writing, with Venice and Trieste among the favored locations, and for her "Pax Britannica" histories about the British empire, a trilogy begun as James Morris and concluded as Jan Morris. The book was reissued 21 years later as part of "Hav," which included a sequel by Morris and an introduction from the science fiction-fantasy author Ursula K. Morris' other works included the memoirs "Herstory" and "Pleasures of a Tangled Life," the essay collections "Cities" and "Locations" and the anthology "The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000." A collection of diary entries, "In My Mind's Eye," came out in 2019. Born James Humphrey Morris in Somerset, with a Welsh father and English mother, Morris remembered questioning her gender by age 4. She had an epiphany as she sat under her mother's piano and thought that she had "been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl." For some 20 years she kept her feelings secret, a "cherished" secret that became a prayer when at Oxford University she and fellow students would observe a moment of silence while worshipping at the school cathedral. To the outside world, James Morris seemed to enjoy an exemplary male life. She was 17 when she joined the British army during World War II, served as an intelligence officer in Palestine and mastered the "military virtues of "courage, dash, loyalty, self-discipline." In 1949, Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss, with whom she had five children. Morris and her wife were divorced, but they remained close, and, in 2008, formalized a new bond in a civil union.