Pico Iyer


Pico Iyer is the author of two novels and thirteen works of nonfiction, including such long-running reader favorites as Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk and The Global Soul. His books have been translated into twenty three languages and two of his recent works, The Open Road (on his first 34 years talking to the Dalai Lama) and The Art of Stillness, have been national best-sellers. He has also written many liner-notes for Leonard Cohen, the introductions to more than seventy books and constant articles over more than twenty years for The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, The New York Times and more than 200 other magazines worldwide. His three recent talks for TED have received more than 7 million views and counting. In 2019 he will bring out three new books and be Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton.

Eight months earlier, my family “home” had burned to the ground in a forest fire. I’d sat in a car, trapped on our mountain road, and watched the flames systematically pick apart our living room, our library, my bedroom, everything I and my parents owned. When I walked up the road the following day, past exhausted firemen scattered along the sidewalk, I’d come upon a wasteland of ash—cars reduced to hubcaps, bronze statues nothing but debris—and then a vast emptiness where my life had been. Fire is an antagonist, I came to feel; the devastation of everything I understood by a physical home made the flames associated with a hearth seem threatening, malign. There was a “he” at the center of “hearth,” and an “art,” but I could not for the life of me find a “we.”

Now, though, stepping into this simple room, which pulsed with everything that wasn’t there, I forgot about the past. The future, too. The many arguments (with myself and others) I’d spun out on the long drive up, my anxieties about next week, this ambition and that little idea: I was seeing the world with a transparency that felt like original sun. This is what I was when all thought of “I” was gone. And this was what the world looked like when I was truly inside it, wholly present, not clouding the scene with thoughts or projections.


Some of my favorite people on earth are in this book,
Dear writers and grand spirits.

Annie Dillard