“One of the most soulful and perceptive writers of our time,” Pico Iyer is a renowned travel writer beloved for his gift of perspective. In a new culminating work, The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise, Iyer brings together the outer world and the inner to offer us a surprising, original, often beautiful exploration of how we might come upon paradise in the midst of our very real lives.
Q&A with Ruchika Tulshyan.
The Half Known Life sees Iyer traveling from Iran to North Korea, from the Dalai Lama’s Himalayas to the ghostly temples of Japan, bringing together a lifetime of explorations to upend our ideas of “utopia.” He asks how we might find peace in the midst of difficulty and suffering, if religion can really lead us back to Eden or only into constant contention, and if paradise exists only in the afterworld or if it can be found in the here and now.
Some of Iyer’s notable works include, Video Night in Kathmandu, which chronicles Iyer’s explorations across ten countries in Asia and the way these lands have been affected—or not—by the influence of Western culture, as well as The Lady and the Monk, a document of Iyer’s time living in a Kyoto monastery and the development of a relationship with a local woman named Sachiko.
For nearly five decades, Iyer spent weeks at a time talking and traveling with the fourteenth Dalai Lama, attending all of his public engagements, and sitting in on his private audiences with old friends, religious leaders, political strategists, and scientists. These uniquely intimate experiences culminated in Iyer’s bestseller, The Open Road; praised by the New York Times Book Review as a “trenchant, impassioned look at a singular life.”
Iyer’s two most recent publications are twinned works about Iyer’s longtime adopted homeland of Japan. Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells is a meditation on impermanence, mortality, and grief seeded in the land which Iyer considers a second home. In addition to his work as an author, Iyer has contributed regular essays for over a quarter-century to TIME, the New York Times, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, and more than 250 other periodicals worldwide.
Ruchika Tulshyan, our Q&A moderator for the evening, is the best-selling author of Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work (MIT Press). The book was described as “transformative” by Dr. Brené Brown. Ruchika is also the founder of Candour, an inclusion strategy practice. A former international business journalist, Ruchika is a regular contributor to The New York Times and Harvard Business Review and a recognized media commentator on workplace culture. Learn more at https://www.rtulshyan.com/.