My last book of 2019 was a book about autumn by Pico Iyer, a genre-defying book by a well-known author. I heard Iyer speak at the Singapore Writer’s Festival in November 2019 and I was suitably impressed; by his words and his impeccable English accent, which still surprises me given his Indian genes, and by his deep understanding of Japan gathered in the three decades he has lived there.
The book signing line was long, but I was prepared to wait hoping to get an autographed copy, but it was not my lucky day. The bookstore ran out of copies!
I got a copy from the Singapore library, a paperback version that was easy to read on the train.
“Cherry blossoms, pretty and frothy as schoolgirls’ giggles, are the face the country likes to present to the world, all pink and white eroticism; but it’s the reddening of the maple leaves under a blaze of ceramic-blue skies that is the place’s secret heart.”
As the title suggests, the book is focused on autumn, a season that graciously lends itself to metaphor; for maturity, for aging, and for letting ago. It is not a memoir neither would it classify as a travelog. It is a rumination on the autumn of life but with a light touch and a uniquely Japanese flavor, much like the cherry blossom ice-cream that I relished during my visit to Japan one spring.
“We cherish things, Japan has always known, precisely because they cannot last; it’s their frailty that adds sweetness.”
Reluctant to return the book to the library, I bought a copy for myself. A part of me is disappointed that this copy does not bear the author’s signature but I know that this is a book that I will continue to cherish in all seasons.
Photo via Time.