Himalaya by Michael Palin (Weidenfeld|
Nicolson, £20. ISBN 0297843710)
If you have watched Michael Palin's recent
television series, you will not be disappointed
with his book `Himalaya', which enjoyably
recounts one of his most exciting foreign
Since the late 1980s, when he made a
television programme about circumnavigating
the globe in 80 days, Michael Palin has
become an acclaimed travel explorer.
His travels have led him to embrace the
North and South Poles, as well as the Sahara
desert. It was only a matter of time before
the highest mountains in the world became
his next challenge.
In a six-month odyssey, Palin tackled
the Himalayas, the greatest mountain range
on earth, stretching 1,800 miles from the
borders of Afghanistan to south-west China,
and reaching altitudes as high as 17,000ft.
He reveals the hidden valleys of the
Hindu Kush, the magnificent peaks of K2,
and the infamous Khyber Pass. We follow
his gruelling treks on Annapurna and to
Everest base camp.
Palin also treads on the unstable soil of
Pakistan's north-west frontier, and terrorist-torn Kashmir, only recently open to visitors
both of which have been centres of
political flashpoints over the years.
Another area that has influenced the
history and politics of Asia, and massive
religious turmoil, is Tibet. His meeting
with the Dalai Lama, which occurred before
visiting this barren yet beautiful plateau,
makes interesting reading.
Palin is a natural storyteller, and this
provocative and inspiring diary provides
an excellent insight into the people and
geography of the Himalayas. He embraces
the strangers and foreigners he meets as he
would friends, revealing fascinating glimpses
of the lives behind these faces.
His zest for life and obvious interest
in their different cultures is revealed by
his willingness to try anything thrown
in his path, from milking a yak to washing
Basil Pao, who has accompanied Palin
on all of his most important adventures
across the globe, successfully captures the
unrivalled beauty of some of the finest
mountain scenery in the world with
Nelson's Purse by Martyn Downer|
(Bantam Press, £20, ISBN 0593 051807)
Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson has had
many books written about him, but this
latest version is based on a collection of
papers and relics that remained unknown
to the world for almost 200 years.
They were originally in the possession of
Alexander Davison, a Freemason and a close
friend of Nelson, who is the central figure
in the book. The Masonic connection is
intriguing and includes the medal struck
under Davison's guidance following the
successful Battle of the Nile in 1798. There
was also a magnificent pair of wine coolers
ordered by Davison with what appear to
be Masonic emblems with a figure almost
certainly a Mason with the date "1798" on
his apron to commemorate the Nile victory.
A number of prominent Freemasons
appear in the book, including Earl Moira,
acting Grand Master 1790-1813 when
the Prince of Wales, later George IV,
was Grand Master.
Martyn Downey made this hugely
important discovery when a specialist at
Sotheby's, the auctioneers, and includes
some 700 papers and artefacts. The
collection raised more than £2.1 million
when sold at auction on Trafalgar Day
(21 October) 2002.
The Sotheby's sale included the
bloodstained purse hence the book's
title which Nelson carried with him
when mortally wounded on HMS Victory
at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, including
the 21 gold coins carried inside.
This book that shows an intimate and
absorbing insight into a figure who is still
venerated as one of Britain's greatest
JOHN HEMMING |
AUTHOR OF THE QUARTER
What prompted your interest in the
plight of the Brazilian Indians?
In 1961, I was on an expedition to survey
a then unexplored area of central Brazil.
After five months of cutting into forests
and mapping, we were ambushed by
an unknown tribe who killed my Oxford
friend Richard Mason. In the 1970s I
spent almost two years visiting over 40
tribes all over Brazil. It was some of their
first contact with the outside world.
Many in the mid-20th century predicted
the extinction of Brazilian Indians by
now. How do you account for their
This is the main theme of my new book
Die If You Must. Indigenous peoples
are extremely fit and healthy, but they
are fatally vulnerable to many of our
diseases, against which they have no
inherited immunity. However, in the
past half-century there have been
improved preventive medicine and
inoculation campaigns. Since the
1950s the combined population of
tribes in Brazil has quadrupled to
almost 500,000 and is rising fast.
The land also supplies all their
needs, from hunting, fishing and
gathering, and it is the cement
that keeps a tribe together the
home of their ancestors, myths and
beliefs and their buffer against the
At first non-Indian sympathisers
anthropologists, missionaries, lawyers,
media and campaigners (including the
British charity Survival International)
fought for these indigenous land and
legal rights. The Indians themselves
now conduct their own campaigns
helped by well-wishers. They generally
get good media coverage and enjoy
public approval. As a result, Indians
were guaranteed the territories on
which they live or hunt in the
Constitution of 1988.
What is your next project, following the
publication of `Die If You Must'?
I am writing a history of the Amazon.
When writing a book, have you got a
preferred place of work and a favoured
I have a big study full of books and files,
overlooking our garden in a house
in Gloucestershire. I do all my writing
there, preferably in the mornings, with
revision and research later in the day.
How do you relax between projects?
I like to be with my family, in London
or Gloucestershire or on holidays
together. But they know that I spend
mornings writing. I occasionally go
on tougher treks or rides with friends
(as my wife doesn't like such activities),
in Peru or Brazil.
Who is your favourite author?
As well as the great novelists like Proust,
I love Henry Walter Bates's A Naturalist
on the River Amazon. He was the first<
paid head of the Royal Geographical
Society. I was the fifth to have that
Which book are you reading at present?
Adam Zamoyski's brilliant 1812 about
Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign.
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