25 September 2023


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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Jan Golembiewski, Transit Lounge, $29.99.

This is a magical excursion; a true story about a young man who heads off on a journey to find out if magic still exists in the world. It’s impressively dreamlike.

It’s an amazing account in which the author ends up in an African prison. Golembiewski wants to realise the wonder of magic and to see if it can save him when his own life unexpectedly is at stake. In the Caribbean, he meets a Rastafarian Don Juan who teaches him about the ‘natural mystic’. Fate propels his travels through the Americas and Europe to locate the source of this knowledge in Mother Africa, where in the Sahara Desert his own emerging mastery of mysticism is tested. He is imprisoned in Nigeria, and tortured, and then sold as a slave.

As Golembiewski says: “we seek miracles amongst the muck of ordinary life. It’s there as ever, a reality rich in magic. The world of the prophets, witch doctors and shamans. But the way there is tenuous, tangled and dangerous, and like all things miraculous, it’s capricious. There for a passing instant and gone the next.”

Father Bob Maguire defines it more clearly. “They try and say glory to God in the highest. I say it’s about glory to God in the lowest. If you can’t find God in the lowest, you’re wasting your time – and that’s where our protagonist finds his Magic – in prison cells, and as a slave in forgotten parts of Africa, in slums of New Orleans, and mosquito-ridden coastlines in the Caribbean. This is an engrossing tale of a year down the path less travelled. It’s a story of a perilous spiritual search that transcends religion, and an authentic adventure.”

The legitimacy, the accuracy is in the overarching narrative. Jan’s visited the “very edge of the world, swum the lava of existence, and returned” with his story. “The power of a true story is in its truth, and that ‘life writing’ cannot compete with the wizardry of fiction.”

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