Top critical review
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Completely debunks Nostradamus
on 4 September 2000
This book sets up to test the validity of Nostradamus's prophecies and his supporters.
The best part book is the final section in which Randi analyzes some of Nostradamus's best-known verses and tests the interpretations that have been put on them. Nostradamus's writing is so obscure, and of course has to be translated from 15th C French, that it is possible to find almost any "meaning" in it if you look hard enough. Randi analyzes the verses themselves, the translations (and the mis-translations in which words conveniently change, disappear or are added), and the techniques used by interpreters. Without fail, Randi shows that the interpretations depend on extremely tenuous links, guesswork and abstract symbolism; any remote validity about predicted events is found only AFTER the event. In addition, Randi provides alternative interpretations for the verses which much more simply and convincingly show that Nostradamus was writing about events that were contemporary to him or in (what was then) recent history. In total, Randi completely debunks any notion that Nostradamus's verses are visionary prophecies.
Had this section been the total extent of this book, I would have given it 5 stars. However, this book also contains a lot of other information which pads out what would otherwise have been a short book, and these sections do nothing to support Randi's argument or conclusions. There are long sections on Nostradamus's life and other (non-prophetic) writings, including a tedious exchange of letters between Nostradamus and one of his clients (and as not all the letters still exist, we get a disjointed, rambling story); the incomprehensible politics of 15th C France; and some pieces on other (failed) prophets, which are too slight to add any value.