A Life of Allegory

Back when most people stayed home, travel writing was a highly imaginative genre. Ask Pausanias, Ibn Battuta or Marco Polo about the strange creatures and bizarre customs that they, and evidently nobody else, encountered in their wanderings. But modern practitioners — Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer — have helped elevate travel writing, if not to a science, then at least to an art that values truth.

No one has mastered that task more deftly than Jan Morris, 79, the England-born, thoroughly Welsh writer and historian. In more than 40 books and countless essays...

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