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September 29, 2003

Acclaimed author and journalist Pico Iyer to speak at UCSC

By Scott Rappaport

Acclaimed author and travel writer Pico Iyer will present a free public lecture, Sunday, October 12, at 4 p.m. in the Music Center Recital Hall on the UCSC campus.

Literary Quarterly has described Pico Iyer as “the poet laureate of wanderlust." Iyer's lecture will be followed by a viewing of Devi, and an appearance by the film's star, Sharmila Tagore, below.
Sharmila Tagore

Iyer will speak on the topic: “Islam and California: A Cultural Romance.” A no-host Indian dinner will be offered after the address, followed by a screening of the classic Satyajit Ray film Devi at 6:30 p.m.

Actress Sharmila Tagore, star of the film, will appear in person after the screening to answer questions from the audience.

Pico Iyer has worked as a writer for Time magazine since 1982, and his articles appear often in Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of numerous books, including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, Falling Off the Map, The Global Soul, Tropical Classical, and Abandon.

Literary Quarterly described Iyer as “the poet laureate of wanderlust. His perennial subject is the strange confluences and poignant idiosyncrasies born of our world’s dissolving borders, and he explores it with a rich mixture of astonishing erudition and wide-eyed wonder.”

Iyer will appear at UCSC as part of the third Sidhartha Maitra Memorial Lecture and Film Screening, an annual event presented by the university’s Satyajit Ray Film and Study Collection.

The lecture series was established by Anuradha Luther Maitra in honor of her husband, who was a scientist, entrepreneur, and admirer of the late Indian film director’s work. The Satyajit Ray Film and Study Collection was founded in 1993 to acquire, preserve, and provide scholarly access to Ray’s films, papers, books, and artwork.

Maitra said she was inspired to bring Iyer to UCSC after attending a recent reading of his latest novel, Abandon. The book explores the misconceptions that occur when cultures collide.

"I have long been a fan of his writing" Maitra said. "I’ve read his books and columns over the years and have attended a number of his readings. He has always impressed me with his kind and gentle approach, and the controlled crisp articulation of his thoughts. The general tone of his novels--an adventurous exploration of different cultures and the certain discovery of intersections between them--is consistent with my vision for the lecture series.”

Maitra also selected the film to be screened after Iyer’s lecture.

"I have a few favorite Satyajit Ray films," she said. "Last year we showed my absolute favorite-Charulata. This year's film, Devi (The Goddess), is another favorite. It's very complex and full of mystical ideas--it's just a beautiful film."

Sharmila Tagore, one of India’s premier actresses, will make her first appearance at UC Santa Cruz to field questions from the audience after the screening of Devi. Although Tagore acted in the 1960 movie when she was just a teenage girl, famed New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael described her role in the film as “exquisite…she is perfect, a word I do not use casually.”

"Sharmila Tagore is still one of India's most glamorous stars," Maitra noted. "She is beautiful and charming, intellectually alive, and politically alert.”

“I can’t wait to see her,” Maitra added, “but I’m even more anxious to have a conversation with her.”

For more information about the 2003 Sidhartha Maitra Memorial Lecture, call (831) 459-4012 or check online.

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