The Asia House Festival of Asian Literature got off to a roaring start by hosting an audience with the wonderfully charming Michael Palin at the Commonwealth Club, London.
Palin was launching a new book, The Truth, excitingly his first foray into fiction. The audience, however, were keen to grill him about his travels. He handled everyone’s question with the same wit and eloquence that we are used to seeing on screen, even though surely he must have been asked some of these questions thousands of times. Palin had us all captivated by his thoughts and insights and giggling with him through his wholly unique accounts of his travels.
When did he feel scared? In Delhi, of all places! He had simply never experienced such a crush of people and had panicked.
Does being poor mean you live a “backward” life? No, Palin recounted with visible pleasure, a time when he had visited a collection of tribes in Pakistan. They lived in harmony with their surroundings and in peace with one another. They were all educated from a very young age (boys and girls) – their poverty was not the worst thing ever, they dealt with it.
How did his family cope with him being away for long periods of time? Well, extremely well, in fact his wife still circles things and says “you haven’t been there, have you?”
Palin also recounted a cute story of being in one of the remotest areas in Africa and jokingly say “phew, I’d love to know how Sheffield Wednesday have done” and a scruffy tiny little street kid came up to him and said “they lost 3-nil to West Brom”.
Palin’s novel raises the question: how do we know that what we are led to believe is the truth? It’s Palin’s delivery that is the key and I am certain that he will handle the genre of fiction with the same excellence that he has handled documentary writing and journalism.
The Festival of Asian Literature is on for the next few weeks at various venues dotted around central London – catch it while you can!
Bunty & Bubbly