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The Meilairean Reviews

A bookish branch of The Meilairean Wednesdays by Febriani Savitri.

The Magic of Reality

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True - Dave McKean, Richard Dawkins

This is a review to the Indonesian edition published by Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia (2015).

 

It has been ages since I bought a non-fiction, let alone a scientific non-fiction (I had my days when I read heaps of books on socialism). I have my regret that I did not bought those Selidik National Geographic series that tell about history of different ancient civilizations, now that some (if not most) of them have been sold out. When I saw this amazing book by Richard Dawkins, loaded with interesting illustrations by Dave McKean, I knew I could not miss this book.

 

If I am not mistaken, this is the second book by Richard Dawkins that have been translated to Bahasa Indonesia. Maybe third, considering that I have seen the Indonesian version of The Selfish Gene by another publisher ages ago. Though I guess that it was just a summary, because it is so thin in pocket size. Anyway, I kind of doubt that all of his books will be translated in Bahasa Indonesia, considering the advocacy of atheism he implicitly inserted in his books. Apparently even some parts in the Indonesian version of River Out of Eden were censored, although I am not really sure on that. Just something my old friend guessed long time ago.

 

Dawkins opened this book by the two subjects on the title, reality and magic. He elaborated reality and how to tell reality from imagination, myth and assumptions using scientific methods. Then he elaborated magic, and stressed on the poetic magic of reality. In the next chapters, he presented some myths and folk stories that tried to answer some fundamental questions that became the title of each chapter. then he elaborated some scientific theories that explain the answer to those questions and sometimes counter the myths. As a former science and biology student in high school and college, I am familiar with many of the theories explained in this book. However, I am amazed by Dawkins’ explanation on sleep paralysis and false memory syndrome to encounter the myth on alien abduction and ghosts like incubus, succubus, old hag, or the “ketindihan” phenomena in my country.

 

What I like the most about this book - besides the interesting illustrated format - is Dawkins’ storytelling style to elaborate the theories he presented. I always had problem on understanding how atom works when I learned it at school. Dawkins’ answer made it so much more understandable. Now if only it can be presented in much less words, it would be great for pre-teens and teens who are struggling to understand it at school. This book would already great for them who are keen to read more, though. As a member of a society that is not commonly trained to read on regular basis, I can find myself too lazy to read even this nicely illustrated book.

 

Errata:

  • The transitional paragraph between page 21 and 22 seems to be cut.
  • The transitional paragraph between page 126 and page 128 also seems to be cut (page 127 is fully in illustration).
  • Page 254. “Mengganggu bila memang b terjadi” may suppose to be “Mengganggu bila memang benar terjadi”, since there was no b variable given and described earlier. 
  • Translation issue:
    Page 256, “kesaksian gadis-gadis ini menyebabkan nyaris dua puluh orang digantung”.
    The use of the word “nyaris” made me almost thing that the Salem Witch Trial’s accused witches were just almost executed rather than actually were executed, if only I did not look up the reference about it. The words’ arrangement still makes sense, though. It is just rather confusing. Maybe the use of the word “hampir” would be less confusing.