Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure

(UK, 1999)

One more (and, sadly, the last we hadn’t seen) long trip with Michael. This time it’s a theme instead of a place or a route. Palin has liked Hemingway since he first read one of his novels in grade school … or whatever they call it in England. Now, I’ll admit that I don’t much care for the Great White Hunter and all-around macho man, neither his prose nor his person. But there’s no denying that his life was epic. He didn’t do anything by half measures, and even though a lot of what he did isn’t anything I’d want to do (running with the bulls in Pamplona), I have to sort of envy him for his willingness to do it. By the time he was my age, 61, he had pretty much used himself up and, knowing that, he blew his own head off with a shotgun. But by the time he was 61 he had done many, many more things than I have done, or will ever do.

So Palin sets out here to follow Hemingway’s life journey. No, he isn’t idiot enough to run with the bulls, he watches from a balcony. But he tries fishing for marlin (no luck), and he tries to see a man who knew Papa, Fidel Castro (again no luck), and tries to hunt ducks in a blind outside Venice (once more, shit out of luck), and goes on safari in Kenya and Uganda (where he doesn’t even try to shoot anything). He goes every place Hemingway ever lived and tries to find him there, from Seville, where they have the most insane fireworks show I’ve ever seen, to Key West, to Ketchum, Idaho. He talks with several people who knew him, and he has a great deal of fun along the way. There is no indication that his trips here are in chronological order, and I suspect they weren’t, as he shows up for Carnival in Venice and the Hemingway Lookalike Contest in Key West. He stages far more things in this series than in the others, setting up little jokes, being more playful. All in all, an excellent addition to this series of journeys. I hope he takes another one soon.