Hello everyone. I am reading a novel, and I came across this expression. Could you please let me know its meaning?

I tried to look away from her. And perhaps she too was looking away, both of us now staring out at the evening sky, where a faint unsteady bluish search beam, emanating from an unknown corner of the Upper West Side, orbited the sky, picking its way through the blotchy night as if in search of something it couldn’t tell and didn’t really mean to find each time it looped above us like a slim and trellised Roman corvus missing its landing each time it tried to come down on a Carthaginian ghost ship.

Tonight the Magi are truly lost, I wanted to say.

But I kept it to myself, wondering how long we were going to stand like this and stare out into the dark, tracing the silent course of the light beam overhead as if it were a riveting spectacle justifying our silence.

- André Aciman, Eight White Nights, First Night

This is a novel published in the United States of America in 2010. This novel is narrated by the nameless male protagonist who meets Clara at a Christmas party in Manhattan. Now the protagonist is side by side with Clara.

In this part, I wonder what the underlined expression means.

Actually, "the Magi" seem to appear several times in this novel. And one of the instances appears here in this chapter:

Outside, on Riverside Drive, solitary lampposts stood out in pools of light, glistening on the snow, like the lost chorus of a Greek play, each a stranded magus with his head ablaze.

(Here, I guess "magus" refers to the lampposts on the street.)

But I wonder what it would mean that the magi are lost, and why the magi are lost if they are lampposts, stranded (fixed in place) with blazing heads... o_O

Thank you very much for your help.


In the Bible., the Magi refers to the three wise men from the East who were guided by a star to the place where baby Jesus was born. Their arrival is celebrated in some Christian sects as "Three Kings Day" 12 days after Christmas.

It is apparently a reference to the searchers in the sky losing sight of their target and getting lost or losing their way and not fining what they are looking for.

"Magus" is a magician or sorcerer. .



Thank you very much for the explanation.

So "the Magi" means the three wise men in the Bible!

Here, the Magi, while looking for the baby Jesus, lost their way. Perhaps, by "Tonight the Magi are truly lost", he is looking at the stranded lampposts, and thinking that the lampposts are the Magi, unable to find directions, and just fixed in their places.

And it is interesting to know that "Magus", unlike "Magi" (from the Bible), means a magician or a sorcerer, not necessarily from the Bible!

I truly appreciate your help. Emotion: smile