Book Review: The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer

Title: The Man Within My Head
Author: Pico Iyer
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0-670-08627-6
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 242
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

We all have our literary heroes. Sometimes in the form of characters, which we have loved reading about and idolizing while reading or sometimes in the form of writers themselves, who bring stories and characters to life. For me, there are so many writers who have changed my life and the way I see things and the world around me and then there are those who stay on irrespective of time.

Pico Iyer’s new book, “The Man within my Head” is homage to Graham Greene, and at the same time, it is a travelogue, a memoir and a literary biography of sorts. It is everything rolled into one, taking pieces from Graham’s books and his life and that is what makes the book an interesting read.

The book opens during a visit to La Paz, Bolivia and the imagery that Iyer leaves you with is fascinating. A lot but of course has to do with the fact that he can describe a regular scene with great intensity, and make it appear magical to the reader. I picture Iyer on his journeys, sinking in what he sees, settling in his hotel room and writing for his readers, writing about Graham Greene – his writing style, his books and his life. He does all of this and at the same time, gives us a sense of his (Iyer’s) life, juxtaposing the two, which makes for great reading.

Graham Greene was always an outsider and that sentiment was forever depicted through his characters – from the whiskey priest in The Power and the Glory to the adulterous wife in The End of the Affair to The Quiet American, Iyer takes the reader through a Greene journey, and pushes readers to visit Graham Greene.

Now to Iyer’s writing style – at times it is broken, fragmented, but then I love that kind of writing. I like writing that makes you think, that has layers and that is not given on a platter to ease the reading. The man inside Iyer’s head is Greene for most of his life, and later does he realize that there is another man who he has never known and lives within him – his father. Through this book, Iyer then learns how fathers and sons function – the relationship they share, what are they made of and what it takes to bind them.

Iyer’s writing is crisp and almost there – it made me stop and wonder about life at various points and if a book manages to do that, then for sure it has done something to you. We all have a man within us – someone different, someone similar, and someone who sometimes we want to be. As Iyer, eloquently puts it, “A man within your head whispers his secrets and fears to you, and it can go right to your core”. A must-read.

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