Pico Iyer

Portrait Pico Iyer
© Ali Ghandtschi

Pico Iyer was born in 1957 to Indian parents in Oxford, England. He grew up in England and California and studied English Literature at Oxford and Harvard. During two summer vacations he worked for the »Let’s Go« travel guide series, for which he visited dozens of Greek, Italian, English and French locations. After finishing his second master’s degree, he taught at Harvard for two years, before beginning writing on international affairs and culture as an essayist, critic and staff writer for »Time Magazine«. For more than a quarter century now, he has been writing essays, reports, cover stories, and reviews for dozens of international newspapers, including »The New York Review of Books«, »The Times Literary Supplement«, »Lettre International« and »Granta«.

Iyer’s books can be classified as investigation of globalism. They combine the experiences of the globetrotter, journalistic meticulousness, and wide-ranging erudion with subtle humor, a sensitive receptiveness to the spirit of foreign places, and a passionate sense of incongruity. His first book »Video Night in Kathmandu« (1988) describes the tragic, comic and moving effects of Western influence on the east in long reports from ten different Asian countries. Despite quietly questioning the implications of the new rootlessness, »The Global Soul« (2000) casts both astonished and amused glances at globalization in the East and the West and registers how cultures merge without dissolving completely. In »The Lady and the Monk« (1991) as well as in his two novels »Cuba and the Night« (1995) and »Abandon« (2003) Iyer describes how whole cultures enter into love affairs with one another, not sure how much they are drawn to another person, or to the culture that person symbolizes. Iyer, who has been in conversation with the 14th Dalai Lama since 1974, completed a meditative enquiry into the Tibetan leader’s global journey in his book »The Open Road« (2008). »The Art of Stillness« (2014) is a traveler’s unexpected reminder of the need for clarity, slowness and groundedness in an age of post-human speed. With his two latest books, »Autumn Light« and »A Beginner’s Guide to Japan« (2019), Iyer, who has been based in Japan for 32 years, provides complementary responses, both touching and playful, to the inner life and the external curiosities of his adopted home.

The author has twice been a fellow of the Davos World Economic Summit and in 1995 was ranked by »Utne Reader« magazine, alongside Noam Chomsky and Václav Havel, among the hundred people globally whose visions are strong enough to change our lives. In 2019 he was Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University and his four recent TED Talks have received more than eight million views.