Jan Morris, Celebrated Author of Place and Historical past, Is Useless at 94
“I think, out of sheer exuberance, the best day of my life was my last on Everest,” she wrote in “Conundrum”. “The mountain had been climbed and I had already started my race on the glacier towards Kathmandu and left the expedition to pack their equipment behind me.”
She continued: “I heard on the radio that my news had reached London as a precaution on the eve of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. I felt like I was crowned myself. “For a Britain that was rapidly losing its empire, the conquest of Everest was greeted with nationalistic euphoria.
As a correspondent for the Times and later the Guardian, Ms. Morris wrote about wars, famines and earthquakes and covered the trial in Israel of Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal who was convicted and executed for his leadership in the extermination of millions of Jews.
She also covered the trial in Moscow of Francis Gary Powers, the US spy plane pilot who was shot down over the Soviet Union. She traveled to Havana to interview Che Guevara, the revolutionary leader described in Conundrum as “hot as a cat”, and again to Moscow to meet British secret service defector Guy Burgess, the “from Alcohol and self swollen “was reproach.”
In the early 1960s, Ms. Morris met with a prominent New York endocrinologist, Dr. Harry Benjamin, an early researcher on transgender people.
He advised her on a slow transition process that began with high doses of female hormones – according to the author’s own calculations, about 12,000 tablets from 1964 to 1972. Ms. Morris wrote: “I wanted to change my shape and appearance – including my status, perhaps my place among my colleagues, my attitudes without a doubt, the reactions I would evoke, my reputation, my way of life, my prospects, my feelings, possibly my skills. “
From the beginning of their marriage, Ms. Morris had confided in her wife, Elizabeth Tuckniss, the daughter of a tea planter, her feelings about her gender identity.