Friday, January 15, 2016

Cuba and the Night, by Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu could easily be the subject of this post. A genre bending exploration of East meets West globalization, the book is a stunning collection of stories broken down by Asian country. The book is part travel memoir, part social reportage, part detached and apolitical political commentary (if that makes sense), and all insight and retrospection. It is a lovely collection of essays that shows a keen eye for observation and a powerful, self-reflective soul.

Yet, Iyer's novel, Cuba and the Night, is perhaps my favorite book of fiction that I have read in the last five years. It is a love story, an ironic, complex, somewhat tragic love story (in other words, a real human love story). It is a story of truth and betrayal and trust. How do we come to trust in an untrusting world, in an untrustworthy world. How to we come to trust others when we ourselves have been so brutally hurt, hurt in ways that makes us profoundly untrustworthy, testing, boundary pushing, and deeply flawed?

Yet what makes Iyer's writing special transcends story. As in Video Night in Kathmandu, Iyer casts the eye of a painter and the listening ear of a deep, introspective soul. His mastery of language is keen, at time bordering on a bit showy, but that is perhaps my only critique of Iyer, who has become perhaps my favorite writer. 

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