An Idiot Abroad Review

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My neighbour had camel in house

An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington is packed full of what I would call Karl's ignorant wit; a skill he uses to simultaneously fail to understand a situation whilst sending it up with an hilarious observation. When freed from the badgering he endures on the audiobooks, Karl is able to apply his unique filter to the world without constantly being forced to explain it, resulting in a book which had me laughing out loud with virtually every page.

In contrast to his previous books the diary format provides a clear structure as well a sense of story that focuses Karl's ramblings into something more coherent. Unlike his previous foray into keeping a diary, this one actually contains things worth talking about; a trip to the cobblers is replaced with a trip up the Nile and observation of insects in his back garden to viewing Brazil's most famous landmark from a helicopter. Each of the seven trips has a chapter dedicated to it, with a school-trip style questionnaire at the end.

El Hijo Del Pilki

The actual book itself is brilliantly put together, worthy of a proper bookshelf rather than the downstairs toilet windowsill. It is absolutely full of pictures, drawings, facts and bits and pieces from Karl's adventures, as well as inserts of conversations between Karl and Ricky or Steve back in London. Much like the series it is interesting to see Karl contrasted against a vibrant and colourful setting that runs against his frequent moaning and love for the mundane.

It is clear that the diary works best as a companion piece to the television series, because with Karl packing in so many strange and funny activities it can feel like the book is jumping very quickly from day to day. One page he is house-sitting for a gay fella and the next he is in Brazilian slums meeting gangs. From what I have seen of the TV series I expect it will offer a more detailed account of the trips Karl goes on, while the book provides more reflection on his travels and his impressions of the people and sights he encounters.

Map of Brazil (Not for use in orienteering)

The book provides as many laughs as you could want as well as being quintessentially Pilkington. He may not be Michael Palin, but you will certainly learn more about other cultures from this book than Karl's ruminations on package holidays and cheap seaside resorts in Happyslapped by a Jellyfish. If you have been looking forward to An Idiot Abroad the TV series then this book cannot fail to deliver on that same need to see Karl Pilkington's Seven Wonders of the World.

- Joe Towner (ScottHanson)

(An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington is published by Canongate Books, and available from the 23rd September.)


The Great Wall of China

Fed toad, assaulted by an aged masseur, woken up at 4.30am to do Kung Fu, taken to an ugly bug buffet, forced to walk the length of a 1980s built landmark and told of forthcoming heart trouble by a psychic, it's safe to say this trip was not the most enjoyable of Karl's excursions. The book reflects this with Karl's mixture of confusion and disgust, but also gives a bit more insight to some of his more bizarre encounters, such as the woman who is having her own coffin built who explains the practicality of this seemingly morbid activity and a bit that did not make the show where Karl learns more about the Chinese custom of eatings dogs. The Wall itself is probably the biggest disappointment, especially once Karl learns about the more modern refurbishments done to it. Comparing it to the M6 motorway in Britain because of its length, he has little to add that won't anger any patriotic Chinaman or Chinamanwomen.