Pico Iyer’s memoir Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells is a moving meditation on impermanence, mortality, and grief that also explores Japanese history and culture. Drawn back to Japan by the sudden death of his father-in-law, Iyer grapples with the question we all have to live with: how to hold on to the things we love, even though we know that we—and they—are dying. Iyer leads us through the year following his father-in-law's death, introducing us to the people who populate his days: his ailing mother-in-law, who often forgets that her husband has died; his absent brother-in-law, who severed ties with his family years ago; and the men and women in his ping-pong club, who traverse their autumn years in different ways. As the seasons change, Iyer reminds us of the impermanence of our surroundings and to take nothing for granted.
Pico Iyer is the author of two novels and 10 works of nonfiction, including A Beginner’s Guide to Japan (September 2019), a playful and profound guidebook full of surprising, brief, incisive glimpses into Japanese culture. An essayist for Time since 1982, Iyer has also written for the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New Yorker, and has given three TED talks. He was educated at Oxford and Harvard.
“This season teaches him the lesson of impermanence, the inevitability of decay. . . . There’s much wisdom in what he says.”
—The New York Times Book Review
6:30 p.m. Explore highlights of Japanese art, including Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō prints, on a pre-event tour with a DMA docent.