Meandering like a river, [Autumn Light] flows along with a steady pace of rumination, only to abruptly plunge off a profound waterfall. At other times, it stagnates in an eddy of banality, treading water, barely flowing at all—as in the many sections when Iyer plays ping-pong with elderly acquaintances at the local health club. It is a mysteriously affecting book, but some readers might be frustrated by its swirling structure ... Like the films of Ozu and Bergman, Iyer’s book is something you feel from within—a mood that is being conveyed ... Autumn Light certainly induces contemplation. A strange emotional fragility arises after sinking into the book, a heightened sense of awareness of what is usually neglected ... Autumn Light is ... not only a joy to read, it’s helpful.
Iyer’s new book, Autumn Light, captures his evolving perspective with astonishing grace. A gentle account of Japan’s autumn, it depicts the unfolding of individual lives in a season marked by transition. This theme is powerfully unveiled in the book’s disquieting beginning ... in addition to reminding us of the importance of the private life and its altered, diminishing character—texts like Autumn Light force us to ask how such a life can be recovered, if it can be recovered at all ... At a time when most of us are preoccupied with the public sphere, his turn to the private realm calls on us to not only recognize the promise of this realm but also to consider the relationship between both domains. An appreciation of this relationship is an ambitious task, but books like Autumn Light encourage such an inquiry, and simply posing the question holds more promise of understanding our world than the solutions that are usually on offer. In reading Iyer, one is persuaded of the power of a life lived in airplane mode, even if we must determine the extent to which such a life only makes sense in the context of the technology that enables it.
Iyer is known primarily for his travel writing, his erudite essays on literature, and his wise, restrained accounts of his Buddhist-inflected striving for stillness and contentment. But memoir is an equally exquisite aspect of his œuvre ... Even in his daily life, playing Ping-Pong with neighbors, he is a consummate tour guide, knowledgeable of his surroundings yet alert to all that might strike foreign eyes as unexpected or inexplicable ... To my relief and pleasure, Iyer seems just as enchanted and enthralled by [his wife] Hiroko as he was in [his earlier book] The Lady and the Monk ... In the autumn of his life, Iyer remains alert to beauty as well as to loss, but his book is replete with a quiet assuredness, a knowledge that he and Hiroko have found the kind of love that endures.