Travels In Paradise: Pico Iyer’s The Half Known Life

Leanne Ogasawara in The Rumpus:

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is probably the first book that comes to mind when one imagines a pilgrim’s travels in paradise. A virtual best-seller since it was penned in the early fourteenth century, the book is divided into three parts: hell, heaven, and the intermediary realm of purgatory. It’s interesting to consider how it has always been the part about hell that has garnered the most attention. Not just by scholars either—it seems most people are, as a general rule, more interested in hell than in heaven.

Why is it so seemingly difficult for us to imagine paradise?

Pico Iyer, in his new book, The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise, embarks on a journey to find out. The first thing he realizes is that many of the Shangri-Las of the world are places fraught with issues. And some of these –like the Holy Land and Kashmir—are more like warzones. Iyer explains in the opening pages of the book that “after years of travel, I’d begun to wonder what kind of paradise can ever be found in a world of unceasing conflict—and whether the very search for it might not simply aggravate our differences.”

More here.