Review

Sahara

by Michael Palin



At the end of his latest travel adventure --- documented in this
gorgeous coffee-table book with luscious photos by Basil Pao ---
Michael Palin returns to the very desert hillside in Tunisia where,
23 years earlier, he and fellow Monty Python-ites had sung "Always
Look on the Bright Side of Life" while suspended from crosses. It
must have been weird. But Palin can be proud of the fact that,
although he's no longer engaged in the kind of insane, over-the-top
absurdist humor of the Life of Brian days, he still sees the
world with an engagingly skewed view. His travelogues (most
famously FULL CIRCLE and MICHAEL PALIN'S HEMINGWAY ADVENTURE) are
full of odd, revelatory observations, sometimes poignant but often
just flat-out hilarious. He has an eye for the bizarre, even
still.

In SAHARA, the companion book to his TV series on Bravo, Palin
finds the weird and wonderful in the African desert, from Gibraltar
to Senegal to Niger to Libya and a lot in between. It is not an
easy place to travel, even for a famous guy who probably has access
to slightly more amenities than the usual backpacker. Palin doesn't
seem to travel with much of an entourage. He rides camels, scales
mountains, stays with a refugee camp in western Algeria, and sleeps
in a miniature bed-cave carved out of the Swiss cheese rock ground
around El Haddej, Tunisia. His insides revolt in meticulously
described ways to some of the local cuisine. In short, this is no
plush journey; it's serious, earth-level travel. Palin talks with
and writes about the people he travels among, and they're the most
fascinating part of the whole epic trek. His writing is superb,
running the gamut from spirited to exhausted, incisive to
affectionate to despairing, depending on who he meets, where he
goes --- and what he's eaten the day before.

A fantastic read for either the armchair traveler or those with
itchy feet themselves, Palin's latest upholds the standards of his
previous travelogues and ups the ante with an even higher dose of
wild adventure. Obsessive Monty Python freaks, of course, will love
it too.

Reviewed by Becky Ohlsen (becky_ohlsen@yahoo.com) on January 23, 2011

Sahara
by Michael Palin

  • Publication Date: April 11, 2003
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Travel
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312305419
  • ISBN-13: 9780312305413