Michael Palin dusts off his passport for his latest travelogue, Brazil, as well as his new novel, The Truth.
When Michael Palin filmed the TV travel documentary Around the World in 80 Days in 1988, the former Monty Python funnyman thought of it merely as a lark between film projects. “That was supposed to be the last one,” he tells American Way.
Twenty-five years, seven additional travel series, more than 150,000 miles and one term as president of the Royal Geographic Society later, Palin has become so well known for his travels that he’s said to create “The Palin Effect” — a marked boost in tourism to the destinations he visits.
For his latest book-and-documentary duo, Brazil (Thomas Dunne Books, $35), Palin and a BBC film crew logged 74 days and 5,965 miles exploring the diverse cultures and landscapes of the world’s fifth-largest country. Compared to the TV program — which PBS will air in the United States in summer 2014 — the book Brazil offers a more in-depth account of Palin’s many memorable encounters. For example, only in the book can readers view Brazil’s national passion — soccer — through the eyes of a 13-year-old hopeful in training with the legendary Santos team. Or accompany 20 teen members of the Amazon Youth Cello Choir as they take their show on the river and serenade remote villages with Bach and The Beatles.
“I try to encourage people to travel off piste, to take the side road,” Palin says. “Independent travel is important because people can make their own decisions about where they go, and their mind is always open to what they see.”
Palin himself traveled far off piste, to the Indian state of Orissa, to research his second novel, The Truth (Thomas Dunne Books, $25). Palin’s protagonist — a down-on-his-luck journalist — travels to this environmental hot spot to track down the elusive activist Hamish Melville and tease out his larger-than-life story. However, Melville’s not so willing to be “pinned down like butterflies on a board.”
“What Hamish is saying is you only have one life; don’t close it down too soon,” Palin explains. “Keep your options open, and something may happen.” Something like, say, an illustrious second career as a writer and beloved travel guide.