Pico Iyer Launches His Latest Book, First Writer in Residence of Raffles Hotel

Well-known travel writer Pico Iyer’s latest book – This Could Be Home: Raffles Hotel and the City of Tomorrow was launched in Singapore today. It is his inaugural work as the first Writer in Residence of the Raffles Hotel.

Speaking to India Se Media, Iyer said he was impressed at how well-read the Indian diaspora in Singapore seemed to be. “At a recent book event in Kinokuniya, there were quite a number of  Indians and they were amongst the most knowledgeable and asked the most questions,” he said adding that the love for books in India was even more impressive. “People come from all over to enjoy literary events. Engineers, Doctors, housewives, people from all walks of life come from miles away just for a book event, it’s amazing!”

His new book is available at Kinokuniya and selected bookshops as well as at the Raffles Hotel bookshop.

Iyer who is in Singapore for a two-week residency at the Raffles Hotel is a British-born American essayist and novelist best known for his travel writing. He was born in Britain in 1957 to Indian immigrant parents and was educated in Eton, Oxford and Harvard. He lives near Kyoto with his Japanese wife. Iyer is the author of numerous highly acclaimed books on crossing cultures including Falling Off the Map, Video Nights in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk and Global Soul.

Pico Iyer, who first visited Raffles Hotel as a young journalist in 1984, is not the first writer to succumb to the attraction of Raffles.

Somerset Maugham was a noted guest. He last stayed at Raffles in 1960 – more than 40 years after his first visit – and famously said, “Raffles Hotel stands for all the fables of the exotic East.”

English playwright, composer and actor Noel Coward was another eminent guest. His first visit to Raffles was in 1931 and his last almost 40 years in 1968.

Joseph Conrad, who was once a seaman, visited the newly opened hotel when he came to Singapore for the last time in 1887.

Rudyard Kipling, who visited Singapore in 1889, was so impressed by the hotel fare that he wrote, “Feed at the Raffles Hotel and sleep at the Hotel de l’Europe.” Kipling didn’t know that by 1900 the Raffles would overshadow the Hotel de l’Europe on all counts, including its rooms.

“To have been young and had a room at Raffles was life at its best,” said the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist James Michener who became a regular guest after his first visit in 1949.

The award-winning journalist and travel writer Gavin Young was another frequent guest.


Shobha Tsering Bhalla

Shobha Tsering Bhalla is the Editor-in-Chief at India Se.