Festival of Asian Literature Opens with National Treasure Michael Palin

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Running until may May 22, the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature held its Opening Night (sponsored by One Fine Stay) yesterday evening at the Commonwealth Club in Central London, a stone’s throw away from Trafalgar Square.

Monty Python alum/world traveler/novelist Michael Palin – who should be a ‘Sir’ by now considering how beloved he is in Britain and around the world – was interviewed rather informally by American author and The Times Editor  Erica Wagner, followed by a Q&A session with members of the enthusiastic audience, as well as a book signing.

Although he has explored quite a few countries in the Pan-Asian region throughout his many documentary projects for the BBC, Palin’s connection to the Asia theme of the festival is primarily through his latest novel – rather daringly called The Truth – which is set in “the lush landscapes and environmental hotspots of India”.

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Palin’s connection to the Asia theme of the festival is primarily through his latest novel – rather daringly called The Truth – which is set in “the lush landscapes and environmental hotspots of India”.

Looking calm and collected while tackling several difficult questions, such as “Do you think religion has had a mostly positive or negative influence on the world?” and “If the North Korean government invited you to their country, would you go?”, Palin never lost his cool – or his sense of humour. To the latter question he answered, “I would go, but not if the North Korean government invited me!”, which brought the house down with laughter. In answering the former question, after pointing out the positive aspects and the less-than-positive aspects of organized religion in society, he diplomatically responded “I’m not sure…”, which also elicited chuckles.

In the following days to come at the festival, you can expect to enjoy a wide spectrum of events ranging from further conversations with literary stars from China, Korea, Pakistan and elsewhere, as well as a publishing workshop, culinary demonstrations, and special days devoted to Burma and Manga. It all winds up on the 22nd with special guest Tan Twan Eng, fresh from his 2013 Man Asian Literary prize win. For further information, please visit asiahouse.org.

By Tim Holm

Festival of Asian Literature 13

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