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Sun After Dark: Flights Into the Foreign

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  364 ratings  ·  58 reviews
One of the best travel writers now at work in the English language brings back the sights and sounds from a dozen different frontiers. A cryptic encounter in the perfumed darkness of Bali; a tour of a Bolivian prison, conducted by an enterprising inmate; a nightmarish taxi ride across southern Yemen, where the men with guns may be customs inspectors or revolutionaries–thes...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by Vintage (first published April 6th 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 770)
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Nash Tysmans
i close my eyes and numb my senses every time i buy any of Iyer's books. they come at a hefty price but before i can reason with myself, my hands (which lie closer to my heart) impulsively sort out the cash and before i know it, the cashier's handing me my receipt. there goes my salary is what i always say but the thing about money is that it can be earned but these rare gems--ideas fitted onto pages---are hard to come by.

the first two Iyer books i got were gifts from an Indian friend who had b...more
I have mixed feelings about travel writing. The best kind of travel writing, to me, is the sort that is so evocative, so vivid, that it makes you want to pack your bags and see the place for yourself. Not necessarily because that place has charming cobblestoned streets or breathtaking vistas, although those always help. But because the writing, in bringing the foreign so tantalizingly close to you, makes you want to take off to explore that Foreign Other. Yet, travel writing is about impressions...more
Dec 05, 2007 Mayee rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like travelogues
Shelves: travel
Something has become more muted in the essays of "Sun After Dark" -- the heavy romanticism demonstrated in "Abandon" is not there, and the tone of these essays seems less melodramatic than his other essays somehow. Was it something in him that had changed, I wondered, or was it me as the reader, or was it both of us... in his essay on Cambodia, I noted the tone of detachment adopted in his description of the moral cesspool of the country, which was usually perversely attractive to people looking...more
Rachel Howard-hines
I am quite literally a Pico Iyer groupie ever since I heard him interviewed several years ago on NPR and realized that no one else, from Paul Theroux to Tony Bourdain and back, has the same combination of curiosity, genius, wanderlust and insightfulness.

I have to say, when a writer is that good in speaking extemporaneously in an interview, then his writing has got to be worth picking up.

I love his travel writing and Sun After Dark is no exception. Pico Iyer travels to what can only be defined a...more
Chris Demer
A very interesting approach to travel writing-philosophical, with social and spiritual insights related to the many unusual places visited. Mr. Iyer is East Indian by blood but was born and brought up in England. He has traveled extensively to some unusual places including Tibet, Bolivia, Cambodia. His insights are wonderful and he reminds me of why I love to travel. Not just for the sights, the art or culture, but to gain understanding of the world from really seeing its various facets, both be...more
Pico Iyer is one of my favourite essayists. His travel writing combines poetic and uniquely layered observations with meditations on the nature and purpose of travel itself. He often writes about places he's visited again and again, giving his work a depth unusual in the genre. This book has a number of brilliant essays, including a portrait of Leonard Cohen at a California Buddhist monastery, a haunting essay on Bolivia and a profile of the Dalai Lama based on decades of intimate encounters.
I would like to start this review by saying Iyer is one of the best travel writers I have read, which would be true, but also needs the qualification that I haven't read many travel writers. Having said that, I will be finding and reading his oeuvre pronto. (Did I just use "oeuvre" in a review? Forgive me. It's 2 a.m. in Barcelona and I'm jet lagged!)
A new addition to my "favorite authors" list. Iyer's proesetry is mesmerizing. Perfect for the world globetrotter or the armchair traveler. Not "just" travel writing ... he explores the worlds inside our brains as well as the ones outside our doors.
Pico Iyer has earned a name for himself as a travel writer, and this book is a collection of mostly travel articles he wrote for various magazines. It also contains a scattering of articles that are book reviews, short biographical pieces on famous people, an analysis of a writer, some reflections about well-off travelers encountering poverty, and so on.

This collection is impressionistic, as is Pico's writing. He daubs his work with touches of things he's seen and heard. It's a unique literary s...more
Sep 27, 2013 Lianne added it
I have loved Pico Iyer's insights into the farthest corners of the world ever since I read "Video Nights in Kathmandu." I somehow missed this collection of essays published in 200 and titled "Sun After Dark: Flights into the FOreign." . Pico Iyer,who has maintained a multi continental global identity is particularly skilled at observations of all places "in between." Each essay in this collection is a jewel. In "Nightwalking" he portrays the psychological displacement of the feel of jetlag. "A F...more
Drew Lackovic
I read this as part of an assignment for finishing up my MFA program, and overall, I felt the book was just alright. I think Iyer is an exemplary travel writer, and especially the essay in there about Grandmothers, and Nara park touched me, but that was only because I too have been to Nara, Japan.

Overall, the collection focused on places of poverty; places that generally are kind of forbidden to the average traveler. And while the insight on lands I'll never visit is interesting, I kept thinking...more
Patti K
This 2004 travel book of essays range far and wide. It is very enjoyable
to vicariously travel with Iyer to places all over the globe. The first two
essays are about Leonard Cohen and the Dalai Lama, while the rest of them
are about Bali, La Paz, Easter Islands, Lhasa, Cambodia and Angkor Wat,
and many others. It is a great and thoughtful book that lets you in on
all the careful details and insight that Iyer offers here.
Iyer shared some great stories in this book. I really enjoyed his piece on the Dalai Lama. Just one example of where Iyer mixed his own experience with an entertaining history lesson. His writings on Cambodia had a profound impact on me. I'm dying to learn more about the horrors of the past. At the same time, I want jump on the next flight to Angkor Wat. "Making Kindness Stand to Reason", "Happy Hour in the Heart of Darkness", "A Journey into Light", "In the Dark", and "A Haunted House of Treasu...more
Tariq Mahmood
It was a tough travelogue for me to follow as there are too many stories which don't seem to be connected very well. I was intrigued by some if the places Pico visited but was short of contextual details. For me a good travelogue is one where historical context is juxtaposed with current predicament of the focus country. Pico should have detailed the historical summary of the obscure countries covered as he would have done a great service to their little known prominence in the world. The only c...more
The man who gives jet lag an inferiority complex has in this collection of thought provoking travelogues succeeded in no small detail in engaging the reader in a bout of spiritual and sublime thinking. Whether it be describing the Buddhist fervour of Leonard Cohen or the ruins of Angkor Vat, Iyer brings a sense of the surreal to his narration.
The best collection of travel stories I have read. Iyer llustrates the locale but also is able to give you a deep understanding of the emotion of the location like no other writer I've read in a long time. You can see it but you can also feel it. He tackles some of the unpleasant parts of travel - his part on child beggars captures the frustration travelers face when dealing with the constant begging and the dilemma of to give or not to give. I loved his piece on jet-lag. I will reread the entir...more
That Iyer is an essayist of finesse is a given, but what I like best about this collection is the keen eye that he casts over every place he visits, usually on New Year's Eve.

I particularly loved the essays on places like Bali, Tibet, Cambodia and Easter Island with none of the touristy afflictions that writers to such places tend to suffer from, nor the angry disbelief at the depths of human depravity.

Also loved the essays on Kazuo Ishiguro, on jetlag and on grandmothers, in a voice that I've...more
I've been reading Iyer with pleasure for a number of years and this is a favorite. His writing is reflctive and poetic, relying on astute observation of the world and creative synthesis of those observations. This book includes both stories of physical travel and journies through realms of inner space and the contemplation of space and identity. The collection includes fascinating profiles of Leonard Cohen and the Dalai Lama, voyages to Bolivia and Cambodia as well as a brilliant meditation on j...more
One or two of the tales as well as a snippet here and there were liked but overall it was kind of a let down. It seemed as if there should be more to to the experiences. Iyer chose to write about hard things and he did a pretty good job. Maybe it was the overuse of metaphors or the top heavy premonitions in the first couple chapters. Although it did create a neat deja vu feeling through out the book. Even though this book was not really for me, I can easily see how people would love it.
Mar 07, 2010 Juha rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: to Pico Iyer fans in a melancholy mood.
Shelves: travel
The stories in this collection have one theme in common: foreigness or being a foreigner. They were written between 1993 and 2002. Geographically, they span the globe. Some are highly personal, others focus on famous people Iyer meets (Dalai Lama, Leonard Cohen), a couple are basically literary criticism, one or two vaguely exciting, even humorous. All in all, the collection finds Iyer in a pensive mood. Many of the stories are rather inward looking, slow reading, melancholy.
Lisa Lawless
This is a collection of travel stories that share an interest in exploring foreign-ness. Iyer examines his own concern for and guilt about people in need in several areas of the world. At the same time, he looks inward to fully experience if not understand his own disjointed feelings in unfamiliar territory. Most of the stories are about physically traveling to different parts of the world, but Iyer also discusses other transporting experiences such as reading books.
I hated this book. I loved this book. The essays were not light nor were they frivolous as Pico Iyer visits places that no one else would visit, or perhaps should visit. Because it is a rare traveler that looks with the depth of understanding that Iyer brings to the world and yet can see and describe it with new eyes. His essays were challenging but intriguing. THis is a book that i will read again after i've thought about it for awhile.
Jul 30, 2011 Susan added it
"The beauty of any flight, after all, is that, as soon as we leave the ground, we leave a sense of who we are behind." As always, Pico Iyer delves into the possibilities of discovery. I lingered over the chapter on Leonard Cohen. Was it coincidence that a student played "Hallelujah" on the piano in the school foyer as I was reading?
I like everything this guy writes, but this book is a bit rougher than others I have read. Because it is a collection of essays, maybe it wasn't as closely edited. He is usually much more literary than this. Still, he has been to some interesting places and his observations are keen.
Ayer is a travel writer, and this book is a collection of travel stories, but not in the usual sense. Most of the book is filled with stories that teach you as much about the author as they do about yourself. This would be a good book to read with someone and discuss as you go along.
I really did not like this book. There may have been one or two essays that were actually enjoyable travel writing. The rest were random, muddled meditations, which may be interesting for some people, do not fall into what I think many would consider travel literature.
I recommend this travel book if not for the interesting anecdotes and quotable quotes from wannabe Buddhist Leonard Cohen and the Dalai Lama, then for the lovely prose and easy writing style that well-defines Iyer's trademark of expatriate angst and exile.
Love Iyer's writing. I devoured this collection of thoughtful travel essays. I think Iyer is one of the few people who can step outside his own culture to genuinely see another. His adventures reminded me how much I like staying at home!
A good collection but I'd recommend Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu (especially) and Global Soul before this one. Thanks to the author for the Leonard Cohen piece. Also this book left me wanting to read everything by W.G. Sebald.
I'm a sucker for travel lit. Guess I like going places without getting on a plane. The Essay called Nightwalking on jet lag is particularly enlightening especially after just returning from Japan.

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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of...more
More about Pico Iyer...
Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of The World The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home

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“You go into the dark to get away from what you know, and if you go far enough, you realize, suddenly, that you'll never really make it back into the light.” 5 likes
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