Excerpt from Jan Morris’s ‘In My Mind’s Eye’ (2018)

The irrepressible travel writer Jan Morris, at the age of 90, decided to keep a diary. Each entry is a gem, unique in subject matter, and her observations are whimsical as well as incisive. Over the next few weeks we’ll share some of our favourites.

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DAY 5

morris-mindsSome novels I fear, are just too clever for me or, rather, I am not clever enough for them. Sometimes, though, it seems to me that they are just too clever for their own good. Of course, I relish the challenge of a superior artistic intellect, even if I need help to understand it.

For eighteen years I failed to get through Joyce’s Ulysses, until I was delightfully converted to its genius by Harry Blamires’s key to it all, and since then I have never looked back. I am still of the impertinent opinion, though, that such a great masterpiece would be even greater if it could be scoured of unnecessary obscurities, while its successor Finnegan’s Wake, since nobody I know has ever succeeded in reading it all the way through, seems to me a perfect waste of the master’s time.

All this is because I have now reached, with muddled feelings, page 38 of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). I am reading it, a bit late in the day, because I feel I ought to. The New York Times, I see, says it should be required reading for the whole human race. I shall soon know whether all of it is going to be required reading for me.

Later: No.