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“A fortune-teller told me” – Tiziano Terzani’s earthbound travels in the Far East

Book review: 'A fortune-teller told me' by Tiziano Terzani

It’s been a while since I wrote a book review here on the blog, but it was because I was on a never-ending search for a book that would capture my attention and keep me hooked until the last page. Three books started later, it happened with Tiziano Terzani’s “A fortune-teller told me.”

Portuguese writer Paulo Moura suggested it at a travel writing workshop I attended this year and I took advantage of the last Lisbon Book Fair to bring it home. Tiziano has thus become, in recent months, my travel companion on the beach or before bed, taking me with him on a curious journey through some Far Eastern countries.

“A fortune-teller told me”… who is Tiziano Terzani?

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know Tiziano Terzani before this book. As a journalist, I should have known the name of one of the world’s most renowned journalists and writers.

Terzani was born in 1938 in Florence, Italy, and had a rich and diverse career as a foreign correspondent, covering various parts of the world over several decades.

He worked as a journalist in various Asian countries, including India, China, Japan, and Vietnam. During his time in Asia, he witnessed important events such as the Vietnam War and the Cultural Revolution in China. These experiences deeply influenced him and significantly impacted his writing style and reading about life and the world.

The Italian author became famous for his unique approach to journalism. Instead of just reporting the facts, Terzani often included his personal and spiritual reflections in his reports and books. He showed in them his more humanistic side and passion for exploring local cultures and traditions.

Then along comes the fortune-teller

This is where “A fortune-teller told me,” one of his most iconic works, comes in. The book is Terzani’s account of a year traveling across Asia by land without using planes. This way of traveling, which the author believes brought back the true essence of travel, resulted from an encounter with a fortune-teller in Hong Kong who told him that in 1993 he could not fly at the risk of dying.

This fateful prediction of the future follows Terzani for many years until, on the eve of 1993, he decides to follow the fortune-teller’s advice and avoid moving through the air. As you can imagine, the challenge is enormous for a journalist who has to be where and when the news happens. But Terzani decides to take it on and not only returns to the land-based form of travel – by car, train or/and boat – but sets out to discover the ancient art of prophecy with such strong roots in Asia.

During the year, the author returns to familiar nations such as Laos, former Burma, Cambodia, or Vietnam, among others, reporting on what has changed in recent times and the increasing presence of China in its neighboring countries. He also visits various mages and fortune-tellers, learning about local traditions and how prophecies have come to influence rulers and populations, both in the past and present.

(Re)reading a classic of travel literature

'A fortune-teller told me' by Tiziano Terzani, a travel book

Tiziano Terzani has a gift for words and, for me, writing that we can easily relate to. Without being overly explanatory but describing environments, people, and situations in a personal way, Terzani takes us on an incredible journey.

The book, with 597 pages, reads very well and leaves the desire to know more texts and works by this author. The Portuguese edition is a part of Tinta da China’s travel literature collection, and their books are published in hardcover editions, which I really appreciate since it’s becoming increasingly rare.

Definitely a book to read and, who knows, reread in the future.

“A fortune-teller told me” – Tiziano Terzani

Tiziano Terzani’s earthbound travels in the Far East.

Review by

"A fortune-teller told me" - Tiziano Terzani
Descriptive and Immersive Writing
Cultural Insights
Journey and Personal Growth
Sense of Adventure and Exploration
Writing Style and Language


“A Fortune-Teller Told Me” by Tiziano Terzani offers an enchanting journey through Asia’s mystical landscapes and cultures, weaving an absorbing tale of destiny and intuition that will leave you captivated; it only slightly lacks never-been-to places by the author and that sense of discovery. Yet, it still deserves a 4.8 out of 5 for its insightful and beautifully crafted narrative that transports readers to the heart of the Asian continent’s enigmatic allure.


Travel Literature: “A fortune-teller told me”


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Marlene On The Move

Marlene Marques

Marlene is the creator of Marlene On The Move. A journalist by profession, she created the blog to share her adventures around the world. It is not unusual for her to set off to discover new countries and cultures with a surfboard as luggage.



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