Author/Presenter: Michael Palin
One hundred years after the birth of Ernest Hemingway, Michael Palin sets out to discover the man behind the legend: a hard-drinking womaniser who liked cats and shooting – but wrote like a dream and left an indelible impression on the twentieth century through his work.
Fuelled by intensive reading for his best-selling novel, Hemingway’s Chair and, as always, driven by a desire to discover new places, Michael Palin attempts to put himself into Hemingway’s World. The past and the present intertwines, sometimes to startling effect, as Michael travels from Chicago to the forests and lakes of north Michigan, and from the First World War battlefields in Italy, to Paris, and Spain where he pauses to learn about the art of bullfighting and to experience Pamplona during the feria and the famous running of the bulls.
He visits Venice at Carnival time and samples the infectious madness of the unique Fallas festival in Valencia with its burning effigies and ear-splitting fireworks. Hemingway’s wanderlust draws Michael to the island of Key West in Florida, once unspoilt, but where the Hemingway industry now flourishes and a look-alike competition is the high point of the centenary celebrations. It takes him fishing on the Gulf Stream, on safari in Africa – where shooting wild animals once meant guns not cameras – and on to the Big Country of Montana and Wyoming, where the world-famous author escaped from the pressure of fame.
Every now and then throughout his travels Michael stops to sample Hemingway’s drinks and the bars he frequented. He examines at first hand Hemingway’s fondness for guns and bullfights, boxing and the all-action life.
But the travelling does not stop: he flies to the Murchison Falls on the River Nile and the lakes of central Africa to discover startling evidence of the two dramatic plane crashes that brought premature obituaries for Hemingway in 1954. Michael makes his first visit to Cuba, Hemingway’s adopted home for almost twenty years, where marlin-fishing, bar-hopping and daiquiris help unravel some of the pervading myths. His journey ends, as Hemingway’s did, among the mountains of Idaho, where Michael visits the house in which America’s most famous twentieth-century author took his own life.
In each location, Basil Pao’s evocative photographs capture the mood and local colour, and site Michael securely in Hemingway’s world. The text is a wonderful exploration of period and place, full of wit and humour, and gives us a fascinating insight into the extraordinary mind and constant, relentless perambulations of one of the twentieth-century’s greatest, most colourful legends.