Michael Palin: Into Iraq (Hutchinson Heinemann 2022)
I remember Michael Palin from my childhood because of his travel series. Every weekend I sat in front of the TV and couldn’t wait for the next episode to start, which was exciting not only because of the interesting landscapes and countries, but also because of Michael Palin’s unique perspective and humor. I wasn’t the only one who loved these series: they have had a profound effect on people all over the world and have drawn attention to exotic destinations to such an extent that the process has been named the Palin Effect. In addition to the travel films, the stories were also published in book form.
After the worldwide lockdown Michael Palin’s latest adventure took him to Iraq. The country captured his imagination for several reasons. On the one hand, thousands of years ago, the Tigris and Euphrates created such a richly fertile region that it forced the nomadic people to settle down and the world’s first cities were created here. On the other hand, in the recent past, unfortunately, there have been bloody wars here, but currently there is a fragile peace in the country. Palin thus set out in March 2022 to follow the Tigris River from its source, Lake Hazar, to the Persian Gulf. Sharp contrasts dominated this trip: the contrast between the ruins of ancient Babylon and the old streets of Baghdad and the war-torn city of Mosul. During his trip, he mentions the situation of women, the aspirations for autonomy of the Kurdish people, and the responsibility of the West for the situation in Iraq.
The BBC filmed a mini-series about the trip, and a book was made from the writer’s diary accounts kept in a notebook and audio notes, illustrated with photographs taken during the journey. I got the book in a signed edition and really enjoyed reading it.