Tahir Shah The Sorcerer's Apprentice

ISBN 13: 9780140285710

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

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9780140285710: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
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Tahir Shah set out to seek to learn first hand from the great masters of Indian tradition - masters of illusion, deception and street fraud - to investigate and come to understand the strategies behind their artifice. It details his apprenticeship to one of India's great conjurors, and includes encounters with various people and groups who have developed seemingly unusual or extraordinary talents or abilities such as god-men, magicians and hypnotists. Aimed at travellers, readers of travel literature and those who simply want to know how the Indian `rope trick' is done and with an interest in Indian esoterica, Tahir Shah provides an insight into an India rarely, if ever, seen by the tourist.

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Review:

Do you nurse the fond desire to try your hand--or feet, that is--at firewalking? Go ahead. In Sorcerer's Apprentice Tahir Shah writes "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 the 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 per cent of India's snakes are non-venomous, and it's easy enough to find a nonfatal variety that looks like one of the killer breeds.

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

Review:

"This is a terrific book: learned, funny and completely spellbinding." -- Mail on Sunday

Tahir Shah has a genius for surreal travelling, finding - or creating - situations and people. The India described here is not to be found by any tourist..." -- Doris Lessing

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Tahir Shah
Published by Penguin Books (1998)
ISBN 10: 0140285717 ISBN 13: 9780140285710
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