Pico Iyer confesses to the sheer volume of resonance he finds in the work of Graham Greene, a writer he wasn’t at all interested in as a youth, intent instead on chafing against the literary tastes of his philosopher father. Indeed, the number of times Iyer references the author is impossible to ignore in this recollection of a nomadic life.
Greene’s sense of rootlessness as an Englishman in the post-colonial world of the 20th century parallels that of Iyer’s childhood, which he spent between home in California and boarding school in England. While the latter opts for expending his restless energy as a travel writer, his idol throws himself into his many eccentricities. Through careful and patient dissection, Iyer chips away at the layers of melancholia that comprise Greene’s best work to compose the “shadow father” who haunts him after the death of his own flesh and blood.
As deeply personal as this memoir is, Iyer also manages to shed some light on a difficult literary figure. The obliqueness of his phrasing paradoxically allows for reflection of the enigmas that lie in wait on the roads less travelled.