In Falling Off the Map, renowned travel author Pico Iyer says “Lonely Places are the places that don’t fit in; the places that have no seat at our international dinner tables; the places that fall between the cracks of our tidy acronyms (EEC and OPEC, OAS and NATO).” Published in 1993, Iyer’s essays capture “moods [of countries he visits] that would not change with history’s tide.”
A few examples:
North Korea, for all its anonymity — its air of Everyplace — did seem a distinctly East Asian place. For all across the region — in Japan and South Korea as much as in China and North Korea — one finds the same remarkable gift for regimentation and self-surrender, for hard work and discipline, as if the religious impulse had simply been channeled toward country or company or cause. It hardly seemed to matter whether the object of this devotion was nominally capitalist or communist.
What makes [Argentina] so intriguing… to the visitor, in fact, is precisely what can make it so agonizing to the resident: it has the urbanity to reflect on its steady loss of all that urbanity entails… Indeed, if conversation is one of the most stylish arts in Argentina, politics is one of the greatest sights; for the central issues of the day are played out in every street and café, in a land that seems almost to feed off soap-operatic calamity.
Cuba… vibrates with the buoyancy of a late-night, passionate, reckless people whose warmth has only been intensified by adversity… you cannot fail to see why Christopher Columbus, upon landing on the soft-breezed isle, called it “the most beautiful land ever seen.”
Iyer’s observations on life in Bhutan, Iceland, Vietnam, Paraguay and Australia are equally illuminating. His humor, extraordinary talent for simile and metaphor that arise spontaneously and naturally from his text, and above all, the varied rhythm and effortless continuity of his prose make this splendid travelogue captivating.
Tucker Cox – Zeteo contributing writer
To read Tucker’s reviews of other “classic” travel books visit his ZiR page here.
The foto of Mr. Iyer and picture of the cover of his book, courtesy of Bing Images.
Click here to visit Pico Iyer’s homepage
Read Rolf Potts’ interview of Mr. Iyer, “one of the most revered and respected travel writers alive today.”
View Pico Iyer’s TED Talk, “Where is home?“