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Indian Conjuring
by Lionel Hugh Branson

#2 Biographies & History author

(1 review, 1 customer rating) ★★★★

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Indian Conjuring by Lionel Hugh Branson

#1 in Biographies & History hot-list

Indian Conjuring is an illustrated guide to Indian magic tricks by Major L. H. Branson, a British officer in the British Indian Army and magician. It includes explanations and step-by-step instructions for a variety of magic tricks that the author came across while serving in colonial India during the early twentieth century.

[Please note that this book is filled with colonialism and racism. We provide such digital reproductions of old books for research, learning, and historical perspective. It does not mean that we agree with any particular statement, point of view, or opinion offered.]

  • CHAPTER I: A Comparison
  • The Cup And Balls
  • CHAPTER III: The Bamboo-Sticks
  • The Ring On The Stick
  • CHAPTER IV: The Glass Box
  • CHAPTER V: The Bowl Of Rice
  • CHAPTER VI: A Rope Trick
  • The Swastika
  • The Egg Bag
  • CHAPTER VII: The Dancing Duck
  • CHAPTER VIII: The Basket Trick
  • CHAPTER IX: The Indian Rope Trick
  • CHAPTER X: Snakes And Crocodiles
  • CHAPTER XI: Generalities, And Other Myths.

1st edition 1922, 103 pages; PDF 44 pages.
word count: 14430 which is equivalent to 57 standard pages of text

Reviewed by Robin Dawes
★★★★   Date Added: Wednesday 01 May, 2024

I'm sorry to submit a strongly negative review of this book, but it really is awful. If it were possible to give negative stars then this appalling little smudge of racist, colonialist, condescending excrement would earn a full -5 from me.

In addition to unrelenting denigration and mockery of the traditional repertoire, accouterments, skill and general deportment of itinerant Indian magicians (with gratuitous comments regarding the trustworthiness of people of mixed heritage), Branson paints "comedic" scenes of Indian magicians attempting to present European-style magic ... something which Branson clearly considers to be outside their capabilities. He then reassures his readers - who he explicitly expects to be members, like himself, of the British colonial population of India - that they can develop all the skills necessary to become performing magicians with minimal effort and practice.

Branson claims that amongst magicians there exists a code of conduct that prohibits explaining other magicians' methods to the public. He clearly indicates that European magicians - whom he places at the acme of perfection in skill, creativity and morality - would never do such a thing. He then justifies the fact that he is doing exactly that in this book - explaining in detail the secrets of all the Indian magic effects that he has seen - by the "logic" that he is actually doing a favour to the itinerant magicians because once people know how the tricks are done, they will actually be more willing to pay to see them performed. I believe the actual reason for his disregard for professional courtesy is much simpler: he is European, they are Indian.

Branson concludes his book with an anecdote which he clearly considers to be very amusing. At some point during his residence in India a bundle of leaves was left in his yard with the apparent intent of invoking a curse upon him. Shortly thereafter the wife of one of his Indian servants died in childbirth. The punchline is that the servant concluded that the curse had been effective because his wife had never died in childbirth before. In just a few short lines Branson ties together racist digs at the gullibility of his servants, their illogicality, their inability to experience grief, and his own complete lack of empathy over a tragic event in his own household.

Frankly, both Branson and his book are sh*t.