Callow American reporter — and skeptic — Jack Walser ponders “half-woman, half-swan” Sophie Fevvers’ trapeze act and remembers ancient tricks he saw performed when he traveled the world:
In Kathmandu, he saw the fakir on a bed of nails, all complete, soar up until he was level with the painted demons on the eaves of the wooden houses; what, said the old man, heavily bribed, would be the point of the illusion if it looked like an illusion? For, opined the old charlatan to Walser with po-faced solemnity, is not this whole world an illusion? And yet it fools everybody.
Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984) (Penguin reissue, 1993)