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The Man Within My Headby Pico Iyer
Synopses & Reviews
We all carry people inside our heads—actors, leaders, writers, people out of history or fiction, met or unmet, who sometimes seem closer to us than people we know.
In The Man Within My Head, Pico Iyer sets out to unravel the mysterious closeness he has always felt with the English writer Graham Greene; he examines Greene’s obsessions, his elusiveness, his penchant for mystery. Iyer follows Greene’s trail from his first novel, The Man Within, to such later classics as The Quiet American and begins to unpack all he has in common with Greene: an English public school education, a lifelong restlessness and refusal to make a home anywhere, a fascination with the complications of faith. The deeper Iyer plunges into their haunted kinship, the more he begins to wonder whether the man within his head is not Greene but his own father, or perhaps some more shadowy aspect of himself.
Drawing upon experiences across the globe, from Cuba to Bhutan, and moving, as Greene would, from Sri Lanka in war to intimate moments of introspection; trying to make sense of his own past, commuting between the cloisters of a fifteenth-century boarding school and California in the 1960s, one of our most resourceful explorers of crossing cultures gives us his most personal and revelatory book.
"Graham Greene isn't the man essayist and novelist Iyer (Sun After Dark) would choose to take up residence in his head — 'I would most likely fasten on someone more dashing, more decisive, less unsettled' — but it's his lifelong fascination with Greene that fuels this deeply personal journey that crisscrosses the world and his own past. As much a catalogue of Iyer's extensive travels as a musing on Greene's themes of foreignness, displacedness, and otherness, the text moves seamlessly between Iyer's days as a schoolboy in England and adventures in Bolivia, Ethiopia, and Cuba. For Iyer — who was born in England to India-born parents, moved to California at eight, but soon returned to the U.K. for boarding school — Greene's oft-repeated theme of the foreigner resonates deeply. Like an 'adopted parent,' Greene is forever by his side: a hotel in Saigon reminds him of The Quiet American, a seminal text for Iyer; his first trip to Cuba brings to mind the author; and even Iyer's old Oxford neighborhood is reminiscent of Greene, as his ex-wife lived nearby. As he explores his obsession, Iyer cautiously peels back the layers of his relationship with his own father, a brilliant philosopher whose belief in mysticism Iyer did not share. In the hands of a lesser writer, the dueling father figures would dissolve into melodrama, but Iyer weaves them brilliantly, reminding us that 'we run from who we are.., only to discover, of course, that that is precisely what we can never put behind us.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From one of our most astute observers of inner journeys, a remarkable and unexpected investigation of the identity of the internal voice that haunts him.
Ever since he first read Graham Greene's work as a schoolboy, Pico Iyer has been obsessed by the figure of the writer and by one of the great themes of Greene's work: what it means to be an outsider. Wherever he has traveled--usually an outsider himself--Iyer has found reminders of Greene's life, observed scenes that might have been written by Greene, written stories that recall Greene. Yet as Iyer recounts the history of his obsession, another phantom image begins to assert itself, one that Iyer had long banished from his inner life--that of his father. And while his father has long held a distant and elusive place in Iyer's imagination, this intimately related inner journey reveals his father to him as a man more mysterious than he has ever envisioned.
About the Author
PICO IYER is the author of seven 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 newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific.
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