‘Not a Nice Man At All’ was probably the most loved man at the LLF 2017 as Michael Palin’s session attracted scores of people.
Mr Palin sat down with Kamila Shamsie to recall his childhood, time at Oxford, the making of Monty Python, his travel stories and novels among others.
Growing up in England during the 1950s, he was inspired by films, shows and music being produced in America which was flourishing at that time while Britain was still a ‘tired’ country. He was looking for some ‘excitement’ in life, he used to listen to shows and music on his father’s old radio set which inspired him to do something similar.
Talking about his experience of creating British sketch comedy show, ‘Monty Python’ with his star colleagues, including Terry Jones, he said the idea behind the series was to look at the ridiculousness of human behaviour; incredible experiences of humankind and giving something to laugh at. His first ever comedy show at college was at a Christmas party at Oxford which was well received and similar experiences thereafter encouraged him to create the show.
The Monty Python team wrote sketches separately or in pairs and would come together at the end of the week, as put by him, ‘knit it together in an unconventional way’.
While discussing his travel experience, particularly of recording ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ with the BBC, Palin said he always wanted to discover new places. He not only visited known places but also unknown islands and cities, some of which don’t even exist anymore.
Mr Palin said he loved writing and writing a novel was something he greatly enjoyed.
In his second session ‘Up Your Himalayas’, which was also the concluding session for the day, Mr Palin showed a visual portrait of his journey through the Himalayas while recording his 5th travel series with the BBC in 2003. He showed the audience a series of photographs taken by his fellow traveler and photographer, Basil Pao. He went through a series of breathtaking photographs starting from Pakistan to India, Tibet, Kashmir, Nepal, Burma and Bangladesh and talked about his time in Peshawar, Kalash, Chitral, Hunza, Lahore, Amristar, Shimla and Dhaka.
Through his travels, Mr Palin said he wanted to break stereotypes about places he visited by showing their real side.
In another interesting session, ‘Far Right, Far Out: Writing, Nationalism, and the Brave New World,’ Dwight Garner sat down with Daniyal Mueenuddin, Eka Kurniawan, Gillian Slovo, and Teju Cole to explore the writers’ impressions about writing in the ever-changing political climate and also how to explore the wide range of subjects through fictional and nonfictional writing.
There was a discussion on the impact the recent US elections had on the writers. Daniyal said that his writing came from a place where there was no ‘political component’ so he liked to witness to the current events as an outsider, not being influenced by them.
Teju Cole said that for him it was rather difficult to write for three days after the US elections as he thought about the consequences, including effects on climate change, immigration, civil rights, and the minorities, that election of Donald Trump might have on the world.
Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2017