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Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer’s most recent book is The Man Within My Head, an eccentric hybrid meditation describing how he is possessed by the late British novelist Graham Greene, and has used Greene as a way both to understand his life and to try to respond to the complexities of a world without answers.

“Biography is fiction,” Iyer has written, “but it is also, if it’s worthwhile, shadow autobiography. It is not about where some figure lived; it’s about what lived in him, about where he traveled when he closed his eyes. The only way to fathom myself, I decided eight years ago, was to spend all my time reading—and writing about—Graham Greene.”

Iyer’s previous books include Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, The Global Soul and The Open Road. Although he is perhaps best-known as a travel writer, he says his main commitment has always been to writing about writers. In recent years, he has written extensively on such writers as Leonard Cohen, Michael Ondaatje, Somerset Maugham, Peter Matthiessen, R.K. Narayan, and Natsume Soseki, and published introductions to works by all of them. He has also written frequently on his longtime talismans, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, and Emily Dickinson; and on the public and invisible explorations of the 14th Dalai Lama. Iyer is a longtime and constant contributor to the New York Review of Books, Harper’s, Time, the New York Times, and many other leading publications.

Born in Oxford to philosopher parents from India and raised in California (for holidays) and England (for schooling), Iyer later moved to Boston and New York; since 1987, he’s been living in rural Japan, and has spent much of the past 20 years in a Benedictine hermitage.

Online Resources

Iyer’s keynote address from KWLS 2006 (audio)
Essay: ‘The Joy of Quiet’
Essay: ‘The Writers that Shadow Us’
Judith Freeman on ‘The Man Within My Head’

Selected Bibliography

The Man Within My Head (2012)
The Open Road (2008)
The Lady and the Monk (1991)
Video Night in Kathmandu (1988)