Trance-Migrations: Stories of India, Tales of Hypnosis

Lee Siegel. Univ. of Chicago, $18 trade paper, (264p) ISBN 978-0-226-18532-3
This experimental work by Siegel (Net of Magic) combines nonfiction and fiction in an attempt both to tell the tale of hypnosis’s relation to India and to hypnotically induce a vivid experience for those who partake. The short stories interspersed among the factual narratives are meant to be read aloud to a listener, who, it is hoped, will enter into something like a hypnotic state and thereby have a more vibrant interaction with the tales. Results will vary. Stumbling blocks include descriptions of objects from India that may be unfamiliar and difficult for Western audiences to visualize. Similarly, both reader and listener are presented with untranslated passages in Latin, French, Portuguese, and Konkani (the official language of Goa), among others. The nonfiction passages describe Siegel’s childhood fascination with hypnotism; his journeys and encounters as he researches this work; and sections on the Abbé Faria (1756–1819), the Goan-born European hypnotist sensation, and James Esdaile (1808–1859), a Scottish-born surgeon who employed hypnosis as anesthesia in Bengal. Siegel confuses matters by imagining his real-life characters in the stories and blurring the lines between sections via story introductions that seem to continue on from the factual material. The repetitive trance-induction narratives, while possibly efficacious for a listener, are simply boring for a reader. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 264 pages - 978-0-226-18529-3
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