A Fortune-Teller Told Me

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Tiziano Terzani was warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to fly for a year. Being a journalist this is a difficult warning to heed, but when a helicopter he was scheduled to be on crashes, he begins to question the occult. A Fortune-Teller Told Me is a travel account of Terzani’s journey through Asia– only by sea or land– as he seeks out every fortune-teller, astrologer, and soothsayer he can find.

This book has so much information in it! As someone who isn’t that familiar with the political history and geography of this part of the world I learned a lot and was, at times, also very lost. It was a reminder of how woefully Western my education of world history has been. This is what hampered my enjoyment of the book the most so I can’t fault it for that. Terzani explains things very well even if you have little prior knowledge of the area’s past. At times the amount of detail feels like too much and drags the pace for me. I am much more interested in the odd fortune-tellers and their predictions, but having background information of the locale is also helpful in understanding why they predict certain things.

Terzani makes few concrete statements about his belief or disbelief in the fortune-tellers. He recounts his journey and leaves the decision up to the reader. Many of his readings have overlaps in information. A number of fortune-tellers get facts about his life correct and many warn him of similar dates when trouble will befall him. Others are laughably wrong and seem only concerned with telling their customer what they want to hear. With a large dose of history and writing that paints unflinchingly accurate pictures of everyday life from Mongolia to Malaysia, this book is a must for anyone who is curious about the oddities and accuracy of the fortune-telling.

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