From one of our most astute observers of human nature, a far-reaching exploration of Japanese history and culture and a moving meditation on impermanence, mortality, and grief.
For years, Pico Iyer has split his time between California and Nara, Japan, where he and his Japanese wife, Hiroko, have a small home. But when his father-in-law dies suddenly, calling him back to Japan earlier than expected, Iyer begins to grapple with the question we all have to live with: how to hold on to the things we love, even though we know that we and they are dying. In a country whose calendar is marked with occasions honoring the dead, this question is more urgent than anywhere else. Iyer leads us through the year following his father-in-law's death, introducing us to the people who populate his days: his ailing mother-in-law, who often forgets that her husband has died; his absent brother-in-law, who severed ties with his family years ago but to whom Hiroko still writes letters; and the men and women in his ping-pong club, who, many years his senior, traverse their autumn years in different ways. And as the maple leaves begin to redden and the heat begins to soften, Iyer offers us a singular view of Japan, in the season that reminds us to take nothing for granted.
About the Author
PICO IYER is the author of eight works of nonfiction and two novels. A writer for Time since 1982, he is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Harper's, The New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, and many other magazines and newpapers on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific. He splits his time between Nara, Japan, and the United States.
“Meandering like a river, [Autumn Light] flows along with a steady pace of rumination, only to abruptly plunge off a profound waterfall . . . It is a mysteriously affecting book . . . A strange emotional fragility arises after sinking into the book, a heightened sense of awareness of what is usually neglected. As I was reading, I often found myself staring out the window in reverie; catching sight of a falling leaf would inexplicably cause me to cry . . . It’s not only a joy to read, it’s helpful . . .”—Los Angeles Review of Books
"Illuminating . . ."—Time
“[An] exquisite personal blend of philosophy and engagement, inner quiet and worldly life . . . a vivid meditation . . . It’s Iyer’s keen ear for detail and human nature that helps him populate his trademark cantabile prose . . . [a] genuine and loving tale.”—Los Angeles Times
“What holds everything together, besides Iyer’s elegantly smooth prose style and gift for detailed observation, is a circling around the theme of autumn in Japan and this autumnal period in his life . . . This season teaches him the lesson of impermanence, the inevitability of decay and ‘how to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying’ . . . There’s much wisdom in what he says”—The New York Times Book Review
“Iyer is a sharp-eyed observer of cultural collisions and cross-pollinations, a modern-day Mark Twain capable of leaping across borders by highlighting a single conundrum, irony or ambiguity. In Autumn Light, he presents to the outside world with simplicity, grandeur and sensitivity . . . Although ostensibly about mortality and grief, at its core Autumn Light is a celebration of enigmas.”—LIFE Magazine
“Profound . . . Iyer’s writing is both simple and lyrical . . . The memoir succeeds, with its deceptively quiet descriptions of autumn both in the natural world, and in the season of his and Hiroko’s own lives, in echoing a uniquely Japanese appreciation of the fleeting nature of time, as well as the humbling acceptance that nothing lasts.”—New York Journal of Books
“The beauty of its prose and the quality of its insight, this gentle, reflective reminiscence reveals again Iyer's literary virtuosity . . . Much of what makes Autumn Light so enchanting is the effortless way Iyer extracts meaning from life's quotidian details . . . Arresting . . . he reveals fundamental truths in an unobtrusively aphoristic style . . . An ideal volume to read and read again for both pleasure and wisdom.”—Shelf Awareness
“The beloved travel writer and journalist’s wistful and conscious memoir filled with musings about home, culture, family, and death . . . With his trademark blend of amiability, lighthearted humor, and profound observations, Iyer celebrates emotional connection and personal expression, and he upholds death as an affirmation of life and all its seasons.”—Booklist [starred]
“Luminous. . . The book is party a love letter to [his] vibrant [wife] Hiroko, whose clipped English unfolds like haiku, and it’s party and homage to the Japanese culture of delicate manners, self-restraint, and acceptance that ‘sadness lasts longer than mere pleasure.’ The result is an engrossing narrative, a moving meditation on loss, and an evocative, lyrical portrait of Japanese society.”—Publisher’s Weekly
"A lucid writer with endless curiosity, and a secularist with a searcher’s heart. . . Has any travel writer ever written this book? In choosing to exchange life as a perpetual visitor for that of a resident in Japan, Iyer finds a hopeful-making amount of freedom in living in – not just borrowing – daily rituals. . . [Autumn Light] is also a tremendously wise book on the late fires of marriage, how moving toward old age, if you’re lucky, as he is, a burst of warmth emerges to push you forward into the final step, the journey no one’s been able to write about.—Literary Hub
"The acclaimed travel writer and journalist meditates on the impermanence of life. Like many others, Iyer reveres the beauty and portent of autumn. . . Throughout the narrative, the author mixes musings on the ephemerality of existence with scenes of quotidian life. . . a thoughtful work with many poignant moments. . ."—Kirkus Reviews