Monday, September 05, 2005

Review: Sun After Dark by Pico Iyer

Time magazine's William Boyd says, "Pico Iyer is among the finest travel writers of his generation."

I'd have to agree. Not that I've combed the breadth and depth of 'travel writing', but I have just loved Sun After Dark : Flights into the Foreign, Pico Iyer's latest book.

I got it expecting vivid descriptions of exotic locales, and that I got, but more than that, Sun After Dark is an inner journey as well. I should say a series of journeys, as the book includes pieces from the mid-90s through to 2002, but in reality it's a unity: seeing the world through the eyes of Pico Iyer.

Paradoxically, learning of a place that I'm seeing very consciously through the eyes, perceptions, memories of someone else, actually helps me understand that place more. Perhaps a bit like Being John Malkovich? Perhaps not quite, but surprisingly similar.

Iyer takes you to deserted Yemen, magic (in both ways) Bali, Cambodia's ancient capital of Angkor, and also introduces you to people: Leonard Cohen, now living with Buddhist monks in California; and the Dalai Lama - the rock star spiritual leader whose quest to free his country fades further in the background as the world demands answers to peace and happiness from him.

In one remarkable chapter, Iyer also discusses the country that never existed until half a century ago - the land of jetlag.

Iyer's writing is delightfully imperfect - he tends to use long ellipses in the middle of short sentences - and conversational.

Want to go places? Start with Sun After Dark : Flights into the Foreign. I can't remember the last book I read that left me with such an urge to simply be myself.


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