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Pico Iyer   Abandon  
Pico Iyer  
Read an Interview with Pico Iyer

Read an Excerpt from Abandon

 

Pico Iyer is probably best known for his anthropology-like field studies of the world's cultures, including The Global Soul and Video Night in Katmandu. In Abandon, his second novel, Iyer shifts his focus from recording reality in its grim splendor to fictionalizing a place he's never been, a religion he's never studied, and a story that's not real. An ambitious experiment. But this reader — a fan of Iyer;s writing since a particularly compelling op-ed piece in Time years ago on the subject of silence — was eager to see what happened when Iyer turned his astute nonfiction writer's eye to fiction.

In Abandon, Iyer introduces us to John Macmillan, an Englishman studying Sufism at a university in Southern dCalifornia. John's passion, in particular, is the Sufi poet Rumi. During a trip to Damascus for a conference, John hears rumors about secret manuscripts that may have been smuggled out of Iran during the Revolution. Intrigued, John bravely tries to unravel the mystery, but finds himself descending deeply into a world he doesn't fully understand and without enough time to finish his dissertation. As if that is not enough, he also finds himself drawn into a complicated, unspoken relationship with a mysterious woman named Camilla.

So where does the novel leave us? Strangely, a place similiar to the one we end up after reading Iyer's nonfiction: enlightened, slightly disoriented, with a sharp, compassionate view of the characters and places that give life to the story. Read to believe.

Allison Heilborn

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