Siddharth Pico Raghavan Iyer (born 11 February 1957), known as Pico Iyer, is a British-born
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known for his travel writing. He is the author of numerous books on crossing cultures including ''Video Night in Kathmandu'', ''The Lady and the Monk'' and '' The Global Soul''. He has been a contributor to ''Time (magazine), Time,'' ''Harper's Magazine, Harper's'', ''The New York Review of Books'', and ''The New York Times''.

Early life

Iyer was born Siddharth Pico Raghavan Iyer in Oxford, England, the son of Indian parents. His father was Raghavan N. Iyer, a philosopher and political theorist then enrolled in doctoral studies at the University of Oxford."Raghavan Iyer, Political Science: Santa Barbara, 1930-1995"
Calisphere, University of California.
His mother is the religious scholar Nandini Nanak Mehta. He is the great-great-grandson of Indian Gujarati writer Mahipatram Rupram Nilkanth, Mahipatram Nilkanth. Both of his parents grew up in India then went to England for tertiary education. His name is a combination of the Buddha's name, Siddhartha Buddha, Siddhartha and that of the Italian Renaissance philosophy, Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Pico della Mirandola. When Iyer was seven, in 1964, his family moved to California, when his father started working with the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, a California-based think tank, and started teaching at University of California, Santa Barbara. For over a decade, Iyer moved between schools and college in England and his parents' home in California. He was a King's Scholar at Eton College, was awarded a congratulatory double first in English literature at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1978, and then received an Master of Arts, A.M. in literature from Harvard University in 1980. He received the Oxbridge MA, Oxbridge M.A. in 1982. In 2017, along with Plácido Domingo and Mario Vargas Llosa, he was awarded an honorary doctorate (in Humane Letters) by Chapman University.


Iyer taught writing and literature at Harvard before joining ''Time (magazine), Time'' in 1982 as a writer on world affairs. Since then he has travelled widely, from North Korea to Easter Island, and from Paraguay to Ethiopia, while writing works of non-fiction and two novels, including ''Video Night in Kathmandu'' (1988), ''The Lady and the Monk'' (1991), ''The Global Soul'' (2000) and ''The Man Within My Head'' (2012). He is also a frequent speaker at literary festivals and universities around the world. He delivered popular TED talks in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019 [see ted.com] and has twice been a Fellow at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He appeared in a commercial for "Incredible India" in 2007. In 2019, he served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, Guest Director of the Telluride Film Festival. He was also the first writer-in-residence at Raffles Hotel Singapore, where he released his book ''This Could be Home (2019)'', which explores Singapore's heritage through its landmarks.

Writing themes

Iyer's writings build on his growing up in a combination of English, American, and Indian cultures. Travel is a key theme in most of his works. In one of his works, The Global Soul (2000) he takes on the international airport as a central subject, along with associated jet lag, displacement and cultural mingling. As a travel writer, he often writes of living between the cracks and outside fixed categories. Many of his books have been about trying to see from within some society or way of life, but from an outsider's perspective. He has filed stories from Bhutan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cuba, Argentina, Japan, and North Korea Some of the topics that he explores in his works include revolution in Cuba, Mysticism, Sufism, Buddhism, Buddhist Kyoto, and global disorientation. In his own words from a 1993 article in ''Harper's Magazine, Harper's'', ''"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."'' His writing alternating between the monastery and the airport, the Indian writer Pradeep Sebastian writes about Iyer, as ''"Thomas Merton on a frequent flier pass aiming to bring new global energies and possibilities into non-fiction"''. He has written numerous pieces on world affairs for ''Time (magazine), Time'', including cover stories, and the "Woman of the Year" story on Corazon Aquino in 1986. He has written 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 (magazine), National Geographic'', ''The Times Literary Supplement'', contributing up to a hundred articles a year to various publications. He has contributed liner-notes for four Leonard Cohen albums. His books have appeared in 23 languages so far, including Turkish, Russian, and Indonesian language, Indonesian. He has also written introductions to more than 70 books, including works by R. K. Narayan, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Michael Ondaatje, Peter Matthiessen, and Isamu Noguchi. He also writes regularly on sport, film, religion and the convergence of mysticism and globalism. He has appeared seven times in the annual ''Best Spiritual Writing'' anthology, and three times in the annual ''Best American Travel Writing'' anthology, and has served as guest editor for both. He has also appeared in the ''Best American Essays'' anthology. The ''Utne Reader'' named him in 1995 as one of 100 Visionaries worldwide who could change your life, while the ''The New Yorker, New Yorker'' observed that ''"As a guide to far-flung places, Pico Iyer can hardly be surpassed."''

Personal life

Iyer has been based since 1992 in Nara, Nara, Nara, Japan, where he lives with his Japanese wife, Hiroko Takeuchi,Iyer 2008, p. 274. and her two children from an earlier marriage. His book, ''The Lady and the Monk (1991)'', was a memoir and a reflection of his relationship with Takeuchi. His family home in Santa Barbara, California, Santa Barbara burned down due to a wildfire in 1990. Reflecting on this event, in his words, ''“For more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil, than you could say, with a piece of soul.”'' He splits his time between Japan, and California. Asked if he feels rooted and accepted as a foreigner (regarding his current life in Japan) Iyer notes:
''"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."''Brenner, Angie
"Global Writer, Heart & Soul – Interview with Pico Iyer"
''Wild River Review'', 19 November 2007.
Iyer has known the 14th Dalai Lama since he was in his late teens, when he accompanied his father to Dharamshala, India, in 1974. In discussions about his spirituality, Iyer has mentioned not having a formal meditation practice, but practicing regular solitude, visiting a remote hermitage near Big Sur several times a year.



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Book reviews

Selected introductions

* Graham Greene, ''The Complete Stories'' * Peter Matthiessen, ''The Snow Leopard'' * Somerset Maugham, ''The Skeptical Romancer'' (editor/writer of introduction) * R.K. Narayan, ''A Tiger for Malgudi'', ''The Man-Eater of Malgudi'', and ''The Vendor of Sweets'' * Michael Ondaatje, ''The English Patient'' * Hermann Hesse, ''Siddhartha (novel), Siddhartha'' (Peter Owen Publishers in London brought this out in August 2012) * Arto Paasilinna, ''The Year of the Hare (novel), The Year of the Hare'' * Frederic Prokosch, ''The Asiatics'' * Donald Richie, ''The Inland Sea'' * Nicolas Rothwell, ''Wings of the Kite-Hawk'' * Huston Smith, ''Tales of Wonder'' * Lawrence Weschler, ''A Wanderer in the Perfect City'' * Natsume Soseki, ''The Gate (novel), The Gate'' (2012)


Further consideration


External links

picoiyerjourneys.com – Official website

An interview with Pico Iyer in Nara, Japan
on ''Notebook on Cities and Culture''
An interview with Pico Iyer in Los Angeles
on ''Notebook on Cities and Culture'' * * Pico Iyer
"The mysterious man who gave me Japan"
BBC Travel, 20 April 2017. {{DEFAULTSORT:Iyer, Pico 1957 births Living people 20th-century English novelists Alumni of Magdalen College, Oxford English emigrants to Japan English essayists English male novelists English people of Indian descent English people of Indian Tamil descent English travel writers Harvard University alumni Harvard University faculty British male essayists Outlook (Indian magazine) people People educated at Eton College People educated at The Dragon School People from Oxford Time (magazine) people 20th-century essayists 20th-century English male writers English male non-fiction writers Nilkanth family