Pico Iyer is a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His books include The Art of Stillness and The Man Within My Head.
 (June 2017)


Nymphets in the New Japan

Some Prefer Nettles

by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker

Devils in Daylight

by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated from the Japanese by J. Keith Vincent
“I can’t get over all the sexual imperialism in Haruki Murakami,” a writer friend complained recently, as she made her way through the Japanese novelist’s tales of passive, rather feckless men lusting after dewy, elusive young beauties. I didn’t know quite how to tell her that, by Japanese standards, Murakami’s …

An Unknown America of the Mind

Richard Rodriguez, 2002

Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

by Richard Rodriguez
It’s exhilarating to come upon a writer whose moves and positions one can’t anticipate. Writing of Las Vegas in his latest book, Richard Rodriguez dilates a little on Noël Coward’s stay in the Nevada desert (the British playwright found the gangsters there “urbane and charming”); he tells us about the …


Satyajit Ray’s ‘The Hero’ Revisited

Uttam Kumar as Arindam Mukherjee in Satyajit Ray's The Hero, 1966

The train, in which nearly all the action takes place, is a hive of designs. The compartments frame a latticework of plots as intricate as anything in Graham Greene’s novel Stamboul Train. Almost everyone has a scheme and almost every character, in this film about acting, is more than ready to pretend to be something that he or she is not. Everyone, essentially, is reflecting back the movie star’s concern about how much selling yourself to the Devil may, in fact, be the right and selfless thing to do, if it can offer those who are suffering a respite from their plight. The result is a festival of ironies.

Kurosawa’s Japan Revisited

Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, 1952

Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) was the first film I saw after I moved to Japan in 1987. I recall how, whenever I’m asked why I left my secure-seeming life in New York City to move to a small room on the backstreets of Kyoto, I say that I didn’t want to die feeling I’d never lived. Perhaps something in me was already moving toward Ikiru even then. I chose Japan as the place to move to in part because it seemed to be a quietly realistic society inclined to see life within a frame of death.

Empty Cities

Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2013

Any of us could list the differences between the two cities of mirages, Las Vegas and the North Korean capital Pyongyang. The one is a shameless efflorescence of capitalism that is, for its enemies, a glittering symbol of the decadence and emptiness of the West; the other the world’s last by-the-book, state-controlled monument to Stalinist brutality. Yet both cities are products of a mid-twentieth-century spirit that saw what power and profit could be found in constructing mass fantasies ab nihilo