The Open Road
The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
By Pico Iyer
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307267603, 288pp.)
Publication Date: March 25, 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
One of the most acclaimed and perceptive observers of globalism and Buddhism now gives us the first serious consideration—for Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike—of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s work and ideas as a politician, scientist, and philosopher.
Pico Iyer has been engaged in conversation with the Dalai Lama (a friend of his father’s) for the last three decades—an ongoing exploration of his message and its effectiveness. Now, in this insightful, impassioned book, Iyer captures the paradoxes of the Dalai Lama’s position: though he has brought the ideas of Tibet to world attention, Tibet itself is being remade as a Chinese province; though he was born in one of the remotest, least developed places on earth, he has become a champion of globalism and technology. He is a religious leader who warns against being needlessly distracted by religion; a Tibetan head of state who suggests that exile from Tibet can be an opportunity; an incarnation of a Tibetan god who stresses his everyday humanity.
Moving from Dharamsala, India—the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile—to Lhasa, Tibet, to venues in the West, where the Dalai Lama’s pragmatism, rigor, and scholarship are sometimes lost on an audience yearning for mystical visions, The Open Road illuminates the hidden life, the transforming ideas, and the daily challenges of a global icon.
Pico Iyer is the author of six works of nonfiction and two novels. He has covered the Tibetan question for Time, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications for more than twenty years.
“A trenchant, impassioned look at a singular life”
–The New York Times Book Review
“[An] elegant and intensely personal book... The Open Road intermittently showcases Iyer's distinctive strength, his vivid travel writing.... The Dalai Lama, The Open Road acknowledges, doesn't have all the answers; ‘it's the questions he puts into play that invigorate.’ One could say the same about Pico Iyer's marvelous little book.”
–The Washington Post
“The Open Road, Pico Iyer's beautifully written, up-close meditation about [the Dalai Lama] - a superb portrait of a celebrated figure whom the master journalist and his family have known personally for 30 years - arrives at a perfect time. As the International Campaign for Tibet tries to get news out about what's happening in Tibet despite severe Chinese censorship - some unofficial reports speak of Lhasa in flames, with far more killing than official Chinese media acknowledge - The Open Road provides context for the tragic events of this month and illuminates how a singular personality born to a highly ritualized leadership role has evolved over time…We're in the hands of a writer who completely understands his subject.”
–The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The bracing virtue of Iyer’s thoughtful essay is that it allows us to imagine the Dalai Lama as something of an intellectual and spiritual adventurer, exploring fresh sources of individual identity and belonging in the newly united world.”
–Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker
“[Iyer has] an access and insight into the Dalai Lama that lifts his writing above the clichés that normally surround him…The Open Road is not a biography but it probably reveals more about its subject than any formal study.”
“An incisive analysis of the modern relevance of Tibetan Buddhism and its leader…Nonfiction of the highest caliber: fascinating and thorough.”
–Kirkus (starred review)
“A brilliant pairing of writer and subject.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A wonderful book. I don’t know when I have seen such a perfect match of a glorious subject and an author who can do justice to that subject.”
—Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions
“Pico Iyer's exceptionally intimate portrait of the Dalai Lama takes us beyond global celebrity image and into a true private audience with a leader of tremendous complexity. Without ever losing compassion or respect for his subject, Iyer (like a good Buddhist, actually) peels away layer after layer of illusion, revealing critical truths about this man at every possible level. In so doing, the author makes an important case -- namely, that the world doesn't merely need larger-than-life humanitarian idols; the world needs larger-than-life humanitarian idols whom we can also recognize as being real people, whose limitations, doubts and personal struggles reflect our fragile humanity right back upon us.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
“Pico Iyer delights, weaving with scintillating intelligence and evident fondness a spell-binding tale of the 14th Dalai Lama’s uncanny power on the world stage. The Open Road intertwines an insider’s access to telling detail with a well-seasoned journalist’s skeptical sensibility. This thoughtful, thought-provoking book will open readers’ eyes. I couldn’t put it down.”
–Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
“In The Open Road, Pico Iyer transcends his celebrated excellence as a travel writer. In an uncommonly thoughtful and eloquent report on the spiritual reflections and also the complex and demanding political and practical encounters negotiated every day by the Dalai Lama–an old friend of his father whom he has known well since early boyhood, not only on regular sojourns at Dharamsala but as a companionable observer on His Holiness’s tireless world travels on behalf of simple sanity and peace–Iyer has brought us an invaluable account and precious gift.”
–Peter Matthiessen, author of The Snow Leopard
“Pico Iyer has taken on perhaps the hardest subject in the whole world to capture on paper: the story of a spiritual/political leader whose greatness is routinely condensed by media accounts into platitudes, and of a movement for both globalized understanding and the salvation of one very particular sliver of land. His account of the 14th Dalai Lama is an undiluted triumph, a book as subtle and moving as any nonfiction produced in recent decades. The planet and its possibilities will look different to you by its close.”
–Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy