Warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for a whole year, Tiziano Terzani — a vastly experienced Asia correspondent — took what he called “the first step into an unknown world. . . . It turned out to be one of the most extraordinary years I have ever spent: I was marked for death, and instead I was reborn.”
Traveling by foot, boat, bus, car, and train, he visited Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Geography expanded under his feet. He consulted soothsayers, sorcerers, and shamans and received much advice — some wise, some otherwise — about his future. With time to think, he learned to understand, respect, and fear for older ways of life and beliefs now threatened by the crasser forms of Western modernity. He rediscovered a place he had been reporting on for decades. And it reinvigorated him.
The result is an immensely engaging, insightful, and idiosyncratic journey, filled with unexpected delights and strange encounters. A bestseller and major prizewinner in Italy, A Fortune-Teller Told Me is a powerful warning against the new missionaries of materialism.
"I was marked for death, and instead I was reborn," declares Italian-born journalist Terzani (Saigon 1975; Goodnight, Mr. Lenin; etc.) and readers of this vivid memoir will believe it. In 1976, early on in his career as a Der Spiegel correspondent in Asia, Terzani was warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to fly in 1993 or he would die. When the fateful year came, Terzani submitted to the warning (no easy decision given all the voyages his work requires), and that year traveled, sometimes with wife Angela in tow, by ship, car, bus and train through 11 countries, including Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Mongolia. Dividing his lucid, graceful and unsentimental prose into 27 anecdotal chapters, Terzani takes readers to the International Thai Association of Astrology, investigates the use of raw garlic and red peppers as a bulwark against the AIDS virus and decries the domestic dog butcherings in Hanoi and constant creeping Westernization throughout the continent, which he encounters and laments in myriad forms. Talking with shamans and soothsayers, Terzani finds the Westernized mind "more limited... a great part of its capacity has been lost. The mind is perhaps the most sophisticated instrument we have, yet we do not give it the attention we give our leg muscles." Terzani's ease and candor and his care for local politics, religion and everyday life make for a full journey of mind, body and spirit. (On-sale date: June 19)
A window to how our world has unalterably changed
Interesting look into questioning what is progress. Tying together some interesting threads from the past.
Some of the astrologer parts drag on but there is definitely a joy in reading about the nuances of some of the regions visited.