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Sorcerer's Apprentice

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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  508 ratings  ·  53 reviews
As a child, Tahir Shah first learned the secrets of illusion from an Indian magician. Two decades later, he sets out in search of this man. "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is the story of his apprenticeship to one of India's master conjurors and his initiation into the brotherhood of godmen. Learning to unmask illusion as well as practice it, he goes on a journey across the subcon ...more
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published June 18th 2001 by Arcade Publishing (first published January 1st 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,583)
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Elissa
Dec 21, 2008 Elissa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers - reads just like fiction!
Ah, a juicy combination of Indian travelogue, cultural commentary, coming-of-age memoir and chemical cookbook. If you need to know how to fake not having a pulse with a walnut in your armpit, this is the book for you.

Interested in the relationship between spirituality, mysticism and stage magic?

Want to taste and smell dawn in Calcutta?

The writing is akin to Gerald Durrell's zoo collecting memoirs of the 1960s - a vast vocabulary at the service of precise detail and an enthralling true account of
...more
Liz
This is one of those books that gives me intense wanderlust. Tahir Shah is either a man with an incredible knack for stumbling across the bizarre, a fabulous liar, or some combination of the two. His story is absolutely outlandish, and sometimes I wondered if he was playing tricks on me just as the Indian godmen he visits perform illusions for rapt audiences. Several of the events in the book are just too coincidental, too good to be true. But in the end, I don't even care—his performance was so ...more
Toni

Re-written review date approx August 11TH. 2013.

What a book even the commas are interesting. A burn the midnight oil book. Things are not what they seem in this extraordinary narrative. It is an inveigling 'wunderbar' book.

'Tahir Shah has a genius for surreal travelling..... I do most heartily recommend this book'
That is what Doris Lessing said..
It is written on the dust cover of my 1998 hard cover edition.

'Feroze was renowned as a magician, but his skills extended beyond the realm of illusi
...more
Holly
This book is a must read: a highly entertaining journey that can't be put down. I read it in about three days, staying up late at night to finish a chapter and then continuing onto the next one. If I hadn't had work to do, I would have read it in one sitting.

I don't know what the negative reviewers were expecting, but this book seems to have something for everyone: travel, humor, revelation of secrets of the trade. In a video on his YouTube channel, the author insists that the book is 100% true
...more
Tessa Campbell
I have read and have thoroughly enjoyed all of Shah's works. He comes from an elite British family of Afghan royalty. His parents wanted him to follow family tradition and pursue a noble profession. Instead Tahir opted for a free-spirited life of travel, anthropology and writing. His travel ideas are spontaneous andand the people that he meets along the way are serendipitous. In Sorcerer's Apprentice he travels throughout India in search of India's infamous illusionist. He writes about his magic ...more
Wendy Bousfield
In his tenacious quest to become a master illusionist, Shah travels through India’s dark underbelly. Fantastically ingenious con men, skilled in misdirection and slight-of-hand, abound in India. Observing and reporting on India’s scam artists and “godmen” (frequently one and the same), Shah tells hilarious anecdotes, often at his own expense. The Tahir narrating Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a kind of Candide—naïve, exuberant, impervious to physical discomfort, boundlessly curious, obsessively carryi ...more
Tereneh
Picked up the day before getting on a plane to India. Reading it while riding the train between Delhi and Jodhpur and Jophpur to Jaipur - it may have colored my opinion of what I saw and what I read. Though the writing is at times a bit uneven, overall it is one man's very interesting story. Much of it is true, or all of it? It does not even matter. The cynicism does not take any of the mystery and magic away from the story or from India. It makes it all the more so. A great read.
Rob
This book had a lot of promise...which it did not live up to.

Author Tahir Shah goes on a quest to learn the "secrets of Illusion" from a master of illusion. He submits himself to all sorts of tasks that he should be learning from as assigned by the master.

He eventually is assigned the task of traveling through out India to observe. Observe what? Along the way he picks up a side-kick who helps pave the way for him. Never mind the sidekick is a young thief and liar.

After all his so-called adventur
...more
Natalie
Amaizingly interesting, humorous and sad at the same time, astounding and shocking. Yes, this is India, and Tahir with ease let you smell it, taste it, feel it, you will worry for people there and admire them...
Suzan
An amazing book! Despite the fact it is a work of non-fiction, it sucked me right into the story from the very beginning. I could not put it down! Fascinating view of India and a view that I suspect is seldom reported. I am planning a trip to India in about a year and a half and I felt that it prepared me for the trip in a manner that I have not been able to find in the tourist books. It did make me wonder if I can handle the sheer density of people there. It seems so crowded in comparison to th ...more
Ita
May 10, 2013 Ita rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All adults
Recommended to Ita by: Tahir Shah
What a Book!

It is little wonder that this, the book which tells of Tahir Shah’s time in India, learning conjuring and illusion from Hakim Feroze – a callous, sadistic, obsessed magician with unnerving occult powers – is his most popular work of travel.

Before initiating him into the secrets of Indian magic, Feroze instils in his apprentice the capacity to endure and insists he becomes a polymath. As if foreseeing the young man’s future life and work, he provides exactly the preparation needed. Th
...more
Ed Kohinke
A really fun read based on a mind-bogglingly unique adventure! Interesting and often hilarious. It wears a little thin towards the end, as each vignette on the journey gets more and more cartoonish, almost kitschy. I kept hoping for a deeper, more reflective dimension to the writing to go beyond the list of "here's all the crazy things that happened on my trip through India". With Shah's family roots in India, he would seem to be in a great position to bring together his thoughts into a really i ...more
Dan Hellebuyck
Wonderfully descriptive, wanderlust inducing, sad at times and hilarious at others. I picked this up after hearing an excerpt on NPR and wasn't disappointed!
Lane
Sep 26, 2011 Lane marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
For me it would have been better if the author had written a shorter novel based on his experiences: I got to about page 180 and quit. As amazing as many of the situations were, I tired of the mind games between him and the magician, etc. It was as if the author felt compelled to not leave anything out since it was non-fiction. Became very repetitive. Still, I'm glad I read as much of it as I did. It gave me insights into a cozy mystery that follows a similar theme: The Case of the Man Who Died ...more
Nancy
I have always been fascinated by magic and illusion and have a secret desire to be in a Bollywood movie. So naturally, this book appealed to me on many levels. It is beautifully written with clever characters and amusing situations that made me glad Tahir Shah encountered them and not me! Disgusting food, horrible hotels and yet the author does not belittle the experiences or the people he meets. He lives in the moment and through his observations and witty writings, I got to live vicariously an ...more
Sandeep Jana
Its a non fiction book based on India , the kind of book that I like to read, thus I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

I would have given it 3.5 out of 5 but somehow good reads does not allow you to rate in decimals so I won't be that critical and give it 4.

Although the subject of conjury and the journey covering different facets of India is quite enticing but some how I felt the narration could have been better. Also the abrupt end leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions and wanting for lit
...more
Kate
This was an interesting travel book, where the author travels around India looking for magicians and illusionists and other odd characters. It definitely made me realize how much can be accomplished by tricks and illusion-levitation, flowers bowing down, "hibernating", etc. I found the story of the konkalwallas (skeleton collectors) particularly interesting. I'm not a big fan of his humor, and the resolution of his apprenticeship is anticlimactic. But still, in all it was a short, fun read.
Ram Kaushik
An absolutely amazing read. One of the most unique books I have ever read and being Indian, I felt Mr. Shah captured the essential spirit of India in all its maddening eccentricities. A delightful blend of travelogue and fiction, not clear where one ends and the other begins, this book is a must-read for lovers of Indian history and culture. I am totally chuffed that my 2013 reading has begun with this book!
Heather
This is the best travel log/memoir that I have ever read. It helped that it was set in India - a place that completely fascinates me. After reading it, you too will be fascinated with India. This is a look at some of the most unreal slices of Indian life that you may ever encounter. It also helps that the author grew up in Britain and has the gift of very dry British wit.
Jeanne
A travel memoir of sorts... The author goes to India to be an apprentice to a master illusionist. Part of his training is to travel the subcontinent, studying India's "godmen." It's humorous and fun, but does not portray India in a good light. After reading this, I have absolutely no desire to go there.
Kaosmoses
Feb 24, 2008 Kaosmoses rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, epecially my bro's burky and hourigan
observation/illusion, hilarity, insight...

I've been on a tear through Tahir's books. They're cast in the travel genre, but I've been inspired to delve into facets of my own life with the same level of zeal and detail. This book was really, really high quality reading.
Heidi
This book is so dense, so rich, that I had to read it in small bites. I was by turns amazed and horrified.
I found myself nearly in tears when reading about the traveling ultrasound "magician", then laughing out loud at the antics of the amoral Bhalu. What ever became of him?
Jodi
Fascinating travelogue of a man in India studying to become a great illusionist and searching out the strange and bizarre across the country. The beginning of this book is very strong, but as it goes on it seems to wander (as the author is wandering) and lose focus.
John Buckler
I found this book interesting, but I never wanted to pick it up and read it. I was bored by it, and the only reason I finished it was because it kept me interested for the first half. At that point, I needed to see how it ended. But I was bored as hell reading it.
Laura
Dec 07, 2007 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
I have read this book before but it is my selection for my book club. I'm re-reading it and enjoying it once again. I recommend this book to people that enjoy reading travel books, are fascinated by India and want to be entertained all at the same time.
Jim
I enjoyed this story of Tahir running around India learning about Magic. I think there may of been a little embellishment in his true story. I believe one should not let strict adherence to the facts get in the way of a good story!
Jane Baker
Fantastic!! I can't wait to read his other books. Best example of travel writing! Funny, interesting. I learned so much about how the poor of India survive!! Nothing is ever wasted! I love the character of the master as well.
Linconter
I learned from this book that I probably will never ever go to India. The insights on the belief systems of the people were most interesting, but there was not one place the author described where I would even THINK of going.
Julian Walker
My first of his books and so brilliantly brought to life I knew I would read his other work. An extraordinary odyssey with all the ingredients of a thoroughly strange story woven into a magnificent read. Very enjoyable.
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One of my all time favorites...top 3 1 28 Dec 07, 2008 10:31AM  
One of my all time favorites...top 3 1 10 Dec 07, 2008 10:31AM  
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Tahir Shah is the author of fifteen books, many of which chronicle a wide range of outlandish journeys through Africa, Asia and the Americas. For him, there’s nothing so important as deciphering the hidden underbelly of the lands through which he travels. Shunning well-trodden tourist paths, he avoids celebrated landmarks, preferring instead to position himself on a busy street corner or in a dust ...more
More about Tahir Shah...
The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams In Search of King Solomon's Mines Trail of Feathers: In Search of the Birdmen of Peru Timbuctoo

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“Respect was one thing. Survival was another. It was important that I kept my priorities in the right order.” 15 likes
“An intelligent enemy,' he would say, stroking his beard as if it were a bristly pet, 'rather than a foolish friend.' Or, 'He learnt the language of pigeons, and forgot his own.' Or, the favourite of Jan Fishan Khan: 'Nothing is what it seems.” 6 likes
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