• Conundrum

  • By: Jan Morris
  • Narrated by: Roy McMillan
  • Length: 5 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (75 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This remarkable memoir is the classic account of the transgender journey. It is all the more extraordinary because it is the life story of a figure who, it seemed, seamlessly and publicly charted a course through the English establishment - James Morris, outstanding journalist, historian and travel writer, famed for a peerless writing style. But all the while he was concealing a very different inner world: from the age of four he felt that, despite his body, he was really a girl.

Determined to be true to an undeniable inner impulse, James Morris, in his 40s, became Jan Morris. It was the 1970s, a time and culture far from our 21st century, where such matters have now become commonplace. What was it that impelled him to take such a frightening and irrevocable step? He faced the mental and physical challenges - the operation had to be done in Morocco and, as a well-known figure, attention from the world media could not be avoided. What pressures would that put on the family - a loving wife and growing children living in a North Wales village? But that inner impulse could not be denied.

Jan Morris tells the story in a clear and honest manner, without a trace of sentimentality or sensationalism. She recounts the emotional, physical, sexual and social issues that abound on such a journey in detail and, through this highly personal memoir, presents a memorable insight into the 'conundrum'. Jan is modest by nature, and it is only by implication that one becomes aware of the immense courage and integrity needed to see the transition through.

This is a deeply moving, beautifully written, unforgettable memoir. Sensational - yes, in a quiet way. Revealing - yes; no punches are pulled. But in the end, it is humane and uplifting.

Jan Morris, now in her 90s, has written a new introduction for this recording. Roy McMillan has recorded Morris' major historical work, the Pax Britannica trilogy (available on Audible), and is the ideal reader for Conundrum.

©1974 Jan Morris (P)2017 Ukemi Productions Ltd
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: LGBTQ+

Critic Reviews

"A perfectly formed work of art, achieving the state of grace to which its creator so elegantly aspires." (Times Literary Supplement)

What listeners say about Conundrum

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Great insight

Jan’s story is similar to others in the shared space of her transition. I found similarities to my story, though Jan was years before me, helping to forge a path for myself and others.

Hearing this narration in a male voice was a little disconcerting

3 people found this helpful

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Beautiful memoir

I enjoined this time capsule about the transgender experience. The narrator did a lovely job, but the choice of a male voice is kind of weird.

1 person found this helpful

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Beautifully told

I finished the Pax Brittanica and wanted to know more about JM. What a beautifully written autobiography this is. Roy McMillan masterful as always as the reader.

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Excellent

I chose this book accidentally and I’m so glad I did. The writing was completely enjoyable and the approach to the subject of gender altered my perspective

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Profile Image for Rachel Redford
  • Rachel Redford
  • 07-05-17

"A troubled soul achieving serenity"


Published in 1974 Conundrum is Jan Morris’s account of her life from a four-year-old boy in a loving family convinced that unlike his older brothers he is a girl, to her full transition to a woman finally completed nearly four decades, a faithful wife and five much loved children later. Now in her nineties, she has written an insightful preface for this recording.

James Morris had a tremendously successful career as a revered journalist (reporting all over the world including in Nepal on the successful 1953 conquering of Everest), travel writer and historian, but his life as a man amongst men (and James Morris met and worked with a multitude of powerful and interesting people including Che Guevara and Adolf Eichmann ) accentuated his own deeply incised dichotomy and sense of duality. His story progresses from school with its sexual indulgences, through to marriage with Elizabeth with whom she now has a civil partnership and who was fully aware of Morris’s state of mind, the fulfilment of raising four children, the shared grief of a baby’s death, years of hormone treatment and finally the surgery in Morocco, all related with complete honesty underplaying the courage and pain involved.

What makes Conundrum such a brilliant classic apart from the biography itself is Morris’s fine intellect and superb writing. She delves into the swirling depths of her psyche as the conflicts and all-consuming drive for change are worked through. Her path through all this has been not so much sexual as spiritual. She muses on the sexual equivocations in world religions and civilisations as she moves from detestation of her male body towards achieving a form of peaceful transcendence where there is neither man nor woman. And this she does, discarding not the truth of herself, but the falsity. Joyful after her final surgery she feels ‘like a princess emancipated from her degraded disguise’. Her troubled soul has achieved serenity.

Roy McMillan reads Conundrum with totally absorbing and respectful dignity. It’s appropriate for him as he has also narrated Morris’s great historical work, the trilogy Pax Britannica (available on Audible) which he was immersed in writing before and after the surgery.
An outstanding recording!


6 people found this helpful

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  • Sarah Rayner, author
  • 11-06-18

Hugely enjoyable, illuminating and witty

Whilst some of the author's views may grate to the 21st century ear, by and large this book is as relevant today as when it was published in the '70s, arguably more so, as trans issues are such a hot topic right now. Listen to it for an insight of one person and to gain understanding, by all means, but also listen to it for its wonderful prose. It’s a gem of a book, beautifully read, and can be devoured within a couple of days - I sped through, chuckling often.

3 people found this helpful

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  • ci
  • 04-12-18

Tears

Jan Morris is a writer second to none. And her description of the love between her and Elizabeth will make you cry, for its poignancy and its perfection.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ninaminacat
  • 10-25-21

Moving and beautifully written

The author's journey from James to Jan Morris is told with an openness and honesty which would have been brave at any time but all the more so in 1974, the time of writing, when what we now call gender dysphoria was scarcely recognised at all. As a journalist and author, she is able to paint a clear picture of the impact of her 'conundrum' on herself and those around her, expressing her emotions freely - and all with sensitivity and humour. The result is work which is as engrossing for the exceptional quality of the prose as for the experiences described. it is also pleasing to listen to Roy McMillan's narration. A clear 5 stars

1 person found this helpful

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  • Janet Jones
  • 07-25-21

Great....

listen to an unusual book about being born in the wrong body and then going from one gender to the other gender. The narrator was very good.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Karmel
  • 09-06-22

Personal, moving and enlightening

In a confused and confusing debate of biological truths, TERFs and transmen and transwomen - I have found no other text more enlightening

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  • Vicuña
  • 08-13-22

Filled with insight and warmth

Jan Morris was, in my view, one of the most remarkable individuals of a generation. As James Morris, he was The Times correspondent on the Edmund Hillary Everest expedition and his account of the attempt to conquer the mountain for the first time is nail biting.

At a time when gender changing was relatively unknown and unusual, he decided to ‘change’ from his male birth gender to become a female. This book is largely the story of that journey.

I admire the honesty in the account. As a pioneer for gender reassignment, the account is groundbreaking. Most of the emphasis is about the effect on personal and family relationships and there are numerous moving moments filled with insight into the daily dilemmas faced. It’s a journey of courage and this account helped me to better understand the complexities faced by some who feel they were born in the wrong gender. This account is worlds apart from the current state where it sometimes seems to be a passing whim to decide on a different gender.

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  • Kathleen
  • 07-15-22

amazing, astonishing, informative

such a beautifully written book about a subject I know little of. wonderfully read with the most glorious use of English to paint vivid pictures of all the situations the author experienced. do read it - you'll be glad you did

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  • Corsaire
  • 07-20-21

Tender, sensitive and illuminating

No matter what your perspective, this book is a revelation about the frustrations, joys and experiences of a person transitioning from one gender to another. Jan Morris' sex change is only one part of a remarkable life as a writer. All of her skills are brought to bear here, in telling her own life story. It is a book full of wonder and thoughtful wit. The reader is magnificent, delivering this nuanced and philosophical consideration of life's most intimate issues with great skill.

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  • Abusam
  • 06-02-21

It was different in those days

A wonderful writer, who writes about this in a 20th century manner, never thinking he/she was a victim.

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