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Saving My Book From the Evil Eye

March 30, 2011

Apotropaic talismans to ward off the evil eye. Photo by Natalia Suit

When the final galleys came back from the printers, my production manager Marvin discovered two significant typos. They aren’t in the main text of the book, and they are easy to overlook, but once you see them they stand out like a sore thumb. I won’t tell you what they are–I’ll challenge you find them for yourself.

Marvin, of course, was terribly unhappy. He strives for perfection, like all good Western production managers.

My wife reminded me that imperfections are often introduced into a text or object to help ward off the evil eye. I passed that on to Marvin and he was much relieved.

The evil eye (ʿayn al-hasud)–which can cause bad luck, minor physical ills (I got a very uncomfortable boil once my doctor warned me might be the result of the evil eye) and so forth, is often a result of someone looking on you and your stuff with envy.

There are basically three ways to ward it off. One is to introduce imperfections into your stuff so it blunts the malicious force of the envy.

Second, there are apotropaic talismans–hands, eyes, glass beads, and mirrors–that deflect the evil eye, perhaps even reflecting it back on its sender.

Third, the name of God, the term masha’allah (as God wills), or other prayers and phrases from the Qur’an are believed to ward off the evil eye. Indeed, for some Muslims, using talismans is a sign of superstition, since only God can really protect you from supernatural forces like the evil eye.

I’m not sure who would be envious enough of my book to bring down the evil eye, and I suspect there are already some minor imperfections in it just because I wrote it and, as my wife, kids and colleagues can attest, I am occasionally less than perfect. Still, it’s good to know it is well-protected.

Marvin, however, has told me that he declines to make a regular practice of introducing imperfections into Indiana University Press books. So if you publish a book with them, you’ll have to introduce your own mistakes.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marge permalink
    March 30, 2011 3:48 pm

    A tedious way to avoid typos is to read backwards word-by-word – Marge

  2. potatoskins permalink
    March 30, 2011 4:29 pm

    Actually, I think we did very well in the manuscript. It’s peripheral stuff like running heads, tables of contents, copyright notices, picture captions, where the errors creep in.

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