The sound of Pico Iyer’s voice resonated with the spiritual wanderlust longing inside of me before his writings ever did. I’d encountered his conversation on the art of stillness with Krista Tippet on her podcast, On Being, last year, and found myself drawn into the effortlessly elegant way he spoke. It turns out that Iyer’s writing comes across the same way.
If newspapers dedicated a column to the existential wanderings that accompany travel, then Iyer would be its founding Editor in Chief. In this collection of travel essays, Sun After Dark, Iyer is a tour guide of the human experience en transit. In addition to conversations with the likes of Leonard Cohen and the Dalai Lama, he takes you into conversations with Cambodians post-genocide and Yemenis pre-9/11. He’s equal parts journalist, poet, and explorer.
Reading this book brought me a refreshed appreciation of writing as a craft; as an artful remembrance and contextualization of people and places. Where one travel writer could focus on the exterior of what a nationality and its culture have to offer a foreigner, Iyer deconstructs the makeup of their collective identity, viewing it from the perspective of a global citizen, and finds the perplexing yet unifying humanity in all of it. As reader, Iyer does not let you remain a gawker of exotic things, but transforms you into an empathizer of fellow human beings.
What I appreciated about the tone of Iyer’s voice when I first heard it was its sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Sun After Dark revealed to me that this same tone imbues his travel essays with awareness and insight that could only come from someone who is truly listening and one who has a heart that is open to seeing.
"One virtue of grandparents, of seasons, or deer who come down from the hills, is that they remind us that we don't know everything, and can't make the world up entirely from scratch; much of it — most of it — is beyond our reach, even beyond our reckoning. In the larger view of things, available to grandparents and ghosts, trivial things have fallen away, and important things never change." (Flights, Grandmothers)
Internecine: destructive to both sides in a conflict.
Sylvan: consisting of or associated with woods; wooded.
Epicene: having characteristics of both sexes or no characteristics of either sex.
Atavistic: relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral.
Appurtenances: an accessory or other item associated with a particular activity or style of living.
Perfidious: deceitful and untrustworthy.
Harangue: a lengthy and aggressive speech.