"American dreams are strongest in the hearts of those who have seen America only in their dreams." -- Pico Iyer
Pico Iyer (born 1957) is a British-born essayist and novelist. He is the author of numerous books on travel including Video Night in Kathmandu. His shorter pieces have appeared in Time, Harper's, NYRB and many other publications.
Iyer was born in Oxford, England, the son of Raghavan N. Iyer, an Oxford philosopher and Theosophist, and the religious scholar Nandini Nanak Mehta. When he was seven, his family moved to California, and for more than a decade he moved back and forth several times a year between schools and college in England and his parents' home in California. He won academic scholarships to Eton, Oxford University and Harvard ... graduating with a Congratulatory Double First at Oxford, and the highest marks in the university ... and taught writing and literature at Harvard before joining Time in 1982 as a writer on world affairs. Since then he has traveled widely, from North Korea to Easter Island, and from Paraguay to Ethiopia, while writing seven works of non-fiction and two novels, and basing himself in Japan, where he lives with his Japanese partner Hiroko Takeuchi, the "Lady" of his third book, and her two children.
Asked if he feels rooted and accepted as a foreigner (regarding his current life in Japan) Iyer replies:
“Japan is therefore an ideal place because I never will be a true citizen here, and will always be an outsider, however long I live here and however well I speak the language. And the society around me is as comfortable with that as I am I am not rooted in a place, I think, so much as in certain values and affiliations and friendships that I carry everywhere I go; my home is both invisible and portable. But I would gladly stay in this physical location for the rest of my life, and there is nothing in life that I want that it doesn’t have.”
Iyer has also lived in Santa Barbara, California, USA.
Having grown up a part of ... and apart from ... English, American and Indian cultures, he became a travel writer to take the international airport itself as his subject, along with the associated jet lag, displacement and cultural minglings. He writes often of his delight in living between the cracks and outside fixed categories. Most of his books have been about trying to see from within some society or way of life ... revolutionary Cuba, Sufism, Buddhist Kyoto, even global disorientation ... but from the larger perspective an outsider can sometimes bring. "I am simply a fairly typical product of a movable sensibility," he wrote in 1993 in Harper's, "living and working in a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel. I am a multinational soul on a multinational globe on which more and more countries are as polyglot and restless as airports. Taking planes seems as natural to me as picking up the phone or going to school; I fold up my self and carry it around as if it were an overnight bag."
In between his books, Iyer writes up to a hundred articles a year for magazines on several continents. A regular essayist for Time since 1986, he writes on literature for The New York Review of Books; on globalism for Harper's; on travel for the Financial Times; and on many other themes for the New York Times, National Geographic, TLS and many other publications. He once wrote words for accompaniment by a chamber orchestra, performed by the Auckland Chamber Orchestra before the prime minister and an Auckland audience, May 2007, and has contributed liner-notes for four Leonard Cohen albums. His books have appeared in languages such as Turkish, Russian, and Indonesian, and he writes regularly on sport, film and religion ... and especially on the places where mysticism and globalism converge.
Iyer's writing goes back and forth between the monastery and the airport ... "Thomas Merton on a frequent flier pass," as the Indian writer Pradeep Sebastian has written ... and aims, perhaps, to bring new global energies and possibilities into non-fiction. The Utne Reader named him in 1995 as one of 100 Visionaries worldwide who could change your life, while the New Yorker observed that "As a guide to far-flung places, Pico Iyer can hardly be surpassed."
The Recovery of Innocence. (London: Concord Grove Press, July 1984. ISBN 0-88695-019-8) A collection of essays about American literature, described on its cover as offering "Literary glimpses of the American dream". The lists of publications in Iyer's later books do not mention this book, which is not common; the Library of Congress has a copy.
Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-so-Far East (April 1988, hardback, July 1989; paperback) / ISBN 0-679-72216-5
The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto (August 1991 / ISBN 0-679-40308-6; September 1991, hardback, October 1992; paperback / ISBN 0-679-73834-7)
Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World (April 1993 hardback, May 1994 paperback / ISBN 0-679-74612-9)
Cuba and the Night (April 1995 hardback, April 1996 paperback / ISBN 0-517-17267-4)
Tropical Classical: Essays From Several Directions. (New York: Knopf, May 1997. ISBN 0-679-45432-2 (hardback). Penguin, 1997. ISBN 0-14-027119-8 (paperback). Vintage, June 1998. ISBN 0-679-77610-9 (paperback)) - Book reviews and essays on places, people, and other matters.
The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, & the Search for Home (February 2000 hardback, April 2001 paperback / ISBN 0-679-45433-0)
Imagining Canada: An Outsider's Hope for a Global Future (January 2001 / ISBN 0-9694382-1-4) - First Hart House lecture: full transcript
Abandon: A Romance (February 2003 hardback, April 2004 paperback / ISBN 1-4000-3085-4)
Sun after Dark: Flights into the Foreign (April 2004 paperback, April 2005 hardback / ISBN 0-375-41506-8)
The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (March 2008 hardback / ISBN 0307267601)