Michael Palin and Hemingway

So, the Michael Palin update I mentioned in my previous post – here it is!
There is a yearly literary festival in Utrecht (NL). The theme this year was the work of Ernest Hemingway and on a news site we read that Michael Palin would be attending the opening of the festival and do a presentation and a Q&A session. I used to read quite some Hemingway in my late teens/early twenties, I have seen quite a few Hemingway movie adaptations and as a Michael Palin and Monty Python fan and having seen Palin’s travel shows including the “Hemingway Adventure” series I couldn’t let this chance slip by. I needed a ticket to this event! My husband is a fellow Palin/Python fan (but not so much a Hemingway fan) and really wanted to come along and see Palin as well. And so, on Monday evening November 24th we found ourselves in Utrecht.
The opening part of the evening was a discussion panel about Hemingway (alas no Palin there). The discussion panel was OK. The speaker opening the evening was very promising and amusing but alas he didn’t have a seat in the discussion panel and the discussion panel was only mildly interesting to me. What annoyed me was this one guy who went on about how he couldn’t read English well enough so he had only read Hemingway in Dutch and then proceeded to quote some passage in Dutch to illustrate how weirdly Hemingway could sometimes phrase things. When I heard what he found weird I knew instantly it was weird because of the translation. Ugh. Maybe if you discuss Hemingway it would be nice to invite scholars who actually read the original texts… The discussion was OK, though I had expected something better from a literary festival, something more in depth. I’m not a Hemingway connaisseur and even I didn’t learn much new about him, it all remained very shallow.
Anyway, moving on… we were told that Palin couldn’t sign anything after his presentation (maybe because of time issues?) but that the day before he had signed a bunch of books in his hotel room and that these books were for sale. Annoying thing: the books he signed we already have and they had only let him sign his books that were translated into Dutch! I don’t want Dutch Michael Palin books that I already have in English! So, we didn’t buy those.

Michael Palin finally came after the intermission. At the end of the break we saw him take a seat in the front row with his wife whom I recognized from photos in his diaries (yes, I have been reading the diaries he published). He then proceeded to give this speech about Hemingway and how he had come to admire Hemingway and then referenced the trip he had done for the BBC following in Hemingway’s footsteps.

It was a good speech with many amusing bits that really got laughs, we loved listening to him! I especially loved when he went off text occasionally to tell an anecdote. Afterwards there was a Q&A session.

The presenter (different guy from the one who had presented earlier) asked a few questions and then let the audience have their questions. I was thinking up a question about Hemingway and film adaptations but then after only 4 or so questions, it had to end, due to the time. Such a pity!!! So, while the Michael Palin hour was really good, it was just waaaay too short, we would’ve loved to have had more time with him! The venue we were at is so big (there are about 5 or 6 stages there!) that there was no single stage door to go to… so we couldn’t wait for him there (like we had done this past summer in London at the Old Vic when we shortly met Richard Armitage). So, back home we went to relieve our friend of her babysitting duties.

Bottom line: it was really really great to see Michael Palin in the flesh and hear him speak and it cements why I love this man so much: he is funny and warm and smart and so nice. We had great seats and my husband took some good pictures. So, though the evening didn’t quite live up to expectation with the time available (and no chance for a meet and greet) what we did see and hear was good, we were happy we had been there.