Book Review: If You Are A Juggler by Alexander Kiss

If you enjoy juggling history books, then the last several years have made you very happy. The latest entry into the field is an English translation of Alexander Kiss’s book, If You Are A Juggler. This book is equal parts history and instruction. Let’s look at some background on the author of the book first.

Alexander Kiss is one of the most important and greatest jugglers of all time. He is considered the father of Russian juggling, especially during the Soviet era. You can learn all about Kiss by clicking here to read my previous article about him and you can watch his amazing act below.

Kiss originally published his book in Russian in 1971. Jugglers have longed for a translation for years, but it wasn’t until well-known juggler Niels Duinker decided to look into translating it last year that anything was done toward that goal. The work Niels has done has resulted in a wonderful book for all to enjoy.

The book is small, measuring 8 inches tall by 5 inches wide, and is 133 pages in length. However, there is a lot of great content packed into those pages. The book includes 63 photos, some of which have never been published before, to the best of my knowledge. About half of these feature Kiss, but the others show a variety of other jugglers from the USSR as well as other well known jugglers of the past. The photos are in black and white. The cover has a great, matte finish and the book as a whole is very high quality.

The book begins with some basic juggling history and then discusses Enrico Rastelli and Massimiliano Truzzi, revealing how they laid the foundation for both classical juggling and juggling in Russia. From there, Kiss discusses juggling in the Soviet Union, detailing the jugglers that came before him, his own rise to fame, his contemporaries, and those who were coming into their own at the time he wrote the book, such as Evgeni Biljauer.

While discussing the history of Soviet juggling, Kiss imparts a great deal of instruction as well. The instruction is more about the mental and philosophical aspects of juggling and about general learning methods than they are about specific tricks and techniques, but the reader certainly comes away understanding why Kiss’ methodology was adopted by most of the Soviet circus schools. This book won’t teach you how to do five club back crosses, a trick that Kiss invented, but it may give you valuable insight into how to think about your technique and how to practice.

On a personal note, I was overjoyed to read about Kiss making duralumin (aircraft aluminum) rings, as I own one of these that had been made and used by Alexander Kiss. It is one of the most unique props on display in the Museum of Juggling History.

Niels was granted permission by Kiss’ grandson, juggler Maxim Kiss, to have the book translated and republished. Niels was assisted by Alan Howard, Karl Heinz-Ziethen, and Stanislav Vysotskyi for editing, translation, and additional photos that were not in the original book.

You can order the book by clicking here. I highly recommend this book, especially if you care about juggling history. Massimiliano Truzzi always wanted to write a book about the history of juggling in Russia, but never did. Luckily, Alexander Kiss did so.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-six books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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