I’ve been reading a few reviews, and it seems that the very reason why most people didn’t like Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure is exactly the reason why I loved it.
The book is all over the place, but then you would expect that when you have one of the leading travel documentary host/writer and an acclaimed actor taking on the life of one of the most loved authors of our generation, Ernest Hemingway.
Palin’s Hemingway Adventure is a mishmash of multiple genres. It’s a biography of sorts wherein he takes us around the world to places where Hemingway travelled in his heyday.
The fact that Hemingway was as much an adventure enthusiast and traveller as Palin adds to the magic of the book.
Palin very successfully manages to depict life at the very places – Italy, Paris, Spain, Africa, Cuba, America – that Hemingway visited and how things have changed, or not changed in some cases, after decades.
Hemingway Adventure is a travelogue at the very core no doubt, but what makes it more than that is the interesting life that Hemingway lived and due attention that is given to his character and life in the book along with that of the people who were influenced by him.
Plain has a knack for describing what he sees in an almost poetic way. He gives just the right amount of information so as for the reader to have the faintest idea of what he is talking about, but holds back enough to make sure that if ever the reader were to visit the place, he/she could see the very same place with new eyes.
Having said that, the beautiful photographs that are part of the book helps put a face to the many people that are mentioned and at other times are simply good to look at and admire.
Palin, in Hemingway Adventure, carries on with in a non-intrusiveness manner when it comes to talking about the trials and tribulations of Hemingway. There are enough mentions about his private life, but Palin is not one to indulge in gossip like narration to cash in on the vibrant and colourful life of the author.
Instead, he tries to get into the mindset of the people that have had a connection with Hemingway in one way or another, be it his life or his writings. This is also where it gets interesting because we see the sway Hemingway has had on the places he once called his home or even visited for a short period of time.
Be it blatant commercialization in some places or the subtle reminder of the greatness of the author, each place has developed an aura of its own that is greatly influenced by Hemingway.
Besides, Hemingway Adventure being a travelogue and a “biography”, it also works brilliantly as a companion to the TV documentary, similar to some of Palin’s other travel works. The occasional mention of the troubles they face in filming bring forth another viewpoint to the entire episode, that of him not only getting carried away in sentiments but also being professional about everything that goes around him.
Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure is a perfect homage to an author whose life was full of tragedies and triumphs, one who found hard to stay still at one place and was always on the lookout for his next adventure.
The book is a great insight into the life of a legendary literary figure and how his impact hasn’t diminished after decades.