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Sorcerer's Apprentice by Tahir Shah

Sorcerer's Apprentice

by Tahir Shah

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185696,557 (4.08)10



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Showing 5 of 5
Travel to see magic in India. Nonfiction. A wonderful book. ( )
  idiotgirl | Dec 25, 2015 |
This book is a fine example of a modern travelogue. The author's talent for description and easy, readable style draw the reader in and make this a quick, engaging read.

However, I must confess that I found myself identifying much more closely with the variety of side characters and bystanders than I did with Mr. Shah. He claims that he's had a lifelong interest in illusions, which was fostered by a visiting family friend from India when he was a young boy. However, he also says that he embarked upon this journey to learn the art of the illusionist specifically to amaze and confound his friends in England, not because he seriously wants to learn the art. Over and over again throughout the book, he refers to his training as a "course," apparently with the assumption that at the end of a couple months training he will have mastered the art form his teacher has devoted his life to, and return to his comfortable western lifestyle with some amazing new tricks to do at cocktail parties. Even when sent out by his master on a trip around the subcontinent, with the express instructions to observe the people making a living from illusions, he chooses to spend half his time chuckling to himself about the superstitious locals, and the other half self-righteously complaining about the money-making schemes of his young traveling companion and the horrible trials of his trip (the one that particularly springs to mind is when he traveled to Hyderabad for a miracle asthma cure, bypassed the thousands of people lined up to receive the cure, broke into the house of the family giving it away, and then complained when he received the very first dose because it involved swallowing fish, and he hated fish).

So, in my opinion, read the book for the clever details about India and the lives of the people there, but try not to pay to much attention to the author. ( )
  Literate.Ninja | Oct 16, 2012 |
A great book, a lot of fun to read.
  blgonebad | Jul 31, 2011 |
This book is very good. It is an extremely intriguing journey. The author really takes you there, on a magical journey across India. If you don't want to hear many of magic's secrets revealed then don't read this because he describes many "mystical" happenings in detail. Yet, strangely, this journey remains magical in many ways largely due to the great writing in this book. ( )
  Solar-Moon | Nov 26, 2008 |
An original and entertaining tavel book detailing Shah's hilarious tutelege under Calcutta's master of illusion, and his subsequent 'journey of observation' around southern India.

This is a book bursting with larger-than-life characters and lots of tantalising glimpses behind the scenes of India's tradition of conjuring and illusion.

First rate. ( )
  Clurb | Nov 14, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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This book is dedicated to the memory of my father, Sayad Idries Shah
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We failed to realise it was an omen when it came.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0753807289, Paperback)

Do you nurse the fond desire to try your hand--or feet, that is--at firewalking? Go ahead. Tahir Shah writes in this beautifully conceived and executed work of literary travel, "Contrary to popular belief, firewalking is dead simple. The skin on the soles of the feet and the ash which covers the coals are both poor conductors of heat. Anyone can do it."

Do we dare trust Shah's word on this point? Maybe so, maybe not, for, though another character in his book bears the sobriquet, Shah is a superbly engaging trickster. The English-born scion of Afghani nobility, Shah takes his readers on a whirlwind trip across southern India that has at its heart one of the most unusual missions in goal-directed travel literature: namely, to find and learn the art of magic from one of India's greatest practitioners, a mysterious fellow named Hakim Feroze. Finding the master in Calcutta, Shah begs Feroze to accept him as a student; unfortunately, as we see, Feroze does so, though not without hesitation. Shah takes us inside sorcery boot camp, which involves strange drills such as digging a deep hole with a dessert spoon, left-handed; separating dried rice and lentils blindfolded; and catching a dozen cockroaches at once in a small tin mug. In recounting his education, Shah reveals a few professional secrets. For one, the Indian rope trick, that classic of conjuring, is effected not by legerdemain, but by the use of hallucinogenic smoke. And as to snake charming, well, 90 percent of India's snakes are nonvenomous, and it's easy enough to find a nonfatal variety that looks like one of the killer breeds.

Full of conjures and trickery, Shah's book offers an often humorous, sidelong education in the dark arts and more: it brings readers along on a surreal tour of India, affording a window to places well off the tourist track. It all adds up to a first-rate adventure. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:50 -0400)

"Sorcerer's Apprentice is the amazing story of Tahir Shah's apprenticeship to one of India's master conjurors, Hakim Feroze, and his initiation into the brotherhood of Indian godmen. It is also the account of a magical journey across India, told with self-deprecating wit, panache, and an eye for the outlandish." "Feroze is the kind of person who can seemingly walk through locked doors, dematerialize when your gaze is averted, and resurrect himself from the dead. A student of Houdini and a hard taskmaster, he teaches the author the basics of his craft, such as sleights of hand, swallowing stones, raising his body temperature to 104 degrees, immersing his hands in boiling oil and lead, and - Aaron's old trick from the Bible - turning a rod into a serpent. Shah learns not only to practice illusion but to spot the artifice behind it. To complete his training and prove himself, he is sent on a quest to discover the ways illusion is manifest in every corner of the subcontinent.". "Saddled with a hilarious sidekick and guide he calls the Trickster, Shah travels from Calcutta to Madras, from Bangalore to Bombay in search of the miraculous and bizarre. Encountering myriad incarnations of illusion, deception, and street fraud, he meets a mix of sadhus, sages, sorcerers, avatars, fortune-tellers, healers, hypnotists, and humbugs, among them people who have developed extraordinary talents and abilities. While recounting their feats, he also reveals - and admires - the imagination and resourcefulness ordinary Indians deploy in order to survive. In this book, Tahir Shah lifts the veil on the East's most puzzling miracles and exposes a side of India that most never imagine exists."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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