Tiziano Terzani wrote this wonderful book, ‘A Fortune Teller Told Me’, in 1995 while working as a journalist for the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
It recounts his journeys through the remotest and unusual corners of Asia during the year 1993, traveling with all means but planes. Indeed, in 1976, Terzani was warned by a fortune-teller of Hong Kong to not fly, otherwise, his life would have been at risk. Although not a believer in prophecies, Terzani decides to follow the fortune teller’s counsel this time; he will thus reshape his habits, starting a slow-paced exploration of the places he once believed to know well, seeing them from a different point of view. He observes the changes caused by pitiless capitalistic systems on societies once blooming with traditions, songs and perfumes. He finds the remains of cities devastated by wars and the terrible consequences on the hopeless survivors’ lives… But, above all, Terzani starts a personal journey made of self-discovery and a new-found relationship with the world, after the pace of Time and infinity of Space, adjusting himself to them with humility and patience. In this journey of self-reinforcement, he will consult fortune tellers and shamans, with the hope to find answers about his future; some will help him, others won’t, but it is ‘questioning’ that matters for Terzani at the end.
What really fascinated me about this book is the balance between the mystic and rational that Terzani constantly maintains and challenges. Indeed, consulting fortune tellers soon becomes, for the author, a challenge towards his own earlier believes and knowledge of himself, a fight against his own fear of the future; contemporarily, the slow-paced journey he is living teaches him the value of present and its uniqueness in time, often lost by daily worries and anxieties. Mysticism is also rediscovered as a way to maintain and preserve ancestral knowledge through generations, unbound from scholastic teachings and left in the hull of instinct and perception, mostly free from controls and limits, of which secret arts are a privilege for a few but open to all. Terzani sees all this as a possibility to our primordial knowledge to survive, against all odds and contradictions of modern times. All this by looking at wonderful landscapes, which secretly treasure the millennial stories of a past now gone, but omnipresent in each fibre of ourselves.
Really a great pleasant book, to read on a long train journey, regardless of the destination.
Have a nice reading,
Here the Italian text: ‘Un Indovino Mi Disse’. [Original language]