East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Magic from the East

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conjuring asiaJust imagine, getting a 100 pounds book for free, and a book on a subject you love, and you don’t have the time for reading it.
Torture, isn’t it?
But then the long weekend of the 15th of August comes, and so I took a break, went to sit in the shade with an iced bottle of lemonade and my kindle, and finally got the opportunity of reading and enjoying Chris Goto-Jones’ Conjuring Asia – Magic, Orientalism, and the Making of the Modern World, a learned tome from the Cambridge University Press about… well, Magic and the East.

The book – written by a member of academia that happens to be also a conjurer – opens with an overview of the concept and practice of magic, and later starts digging deep in that artifact of the 19th century, the Magical East from which unlikely stage magicians supposedly came to enthrall the audiences in London, Paris, New York.


The book is at the same time a history of magic in its Golden Age, an exploration of the imagination of the East and of our passion for exoticism, and a fair analysis of political issues connected with ethnicity, representation and perception, and discrimination.

The fact that despite its subject matter and its complexity, the book succeeds in being a pleasant, almost light read is a sign of the author’s quality and preparation.

Of particular interest to me were the chapters on the history of stage magic, and on the development of conjuring in India, China, and Japan.
Probably not everybody’s cup of tea, but an absolutely excellent read.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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