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Der Illusionist Was ist wahr und was ist IllusionErzählern ist zuweilen nicht zu trauen Besonders wenn sie wie Martin Strauss an einer seltenen neurologischen Krankheit leiden an der sogenannten Konfabulation Konfabulierende sind Menschen die objektiv falsche Dinge erzählen in der festen Überzeugung dass sie wirklich genau so geschehen sind Es sind Menschen denen die Erinnerung ein ums andere Mal böse Streiche spielt Und die ohne es selbst zu merken sich immer weniger darauf verlassen können genau zu wissen was wahr ist und was falsch Als Martin Strauss von seinem Arzt erfährt dass er an fortschreitenden und unheilbaren Erinnerungsstörungen leidet versucht er sein Leben zu rekapitulieren noch einmal festzuhalten wie es wirklich war Und es ist ein wahrhaft turbulentes Leben auf das er zurückzublicken meint – ein Leben an der Seite des großen weltbekannten Magiers und Entfesselungskünstlers Houdini Harry Houdini dem Anfang des 20 Jahrhunderts der sagenhafte Aufstieg von kleinen Hinterzimmerauftritten auf die ganz großen Bühnen der Welt gelang Der von Arthur Conan Doyle bewundert wurde der in das Visier von Scotland Yard geriet dem Verbindungen zu der russischen Zarenfamilie nachgesagt wurden Martin Strauss hat Aufstieg und Fall Harry Houdinis begleitet glaubt er zumindest Und er hat ihn getötet – glaubt er zumindest – und musste daraufhin sein ganzes bisheriges Glück und Leben aufgeben Doch was ist wahr an Martin Strauss‘ Erinnerungen und was ist Illusion I received this as an ARC in a Goodreads “First Reads” Giveaway Martin Strauss suffers from a condition called “tinnitus” This condition blurs his memory and often it is difficult for him to distinguish real memories from those his mind fabricates He is often confused but one thing that is very clear in his mind is that he is the man who killed Harry Houdini – TWICE When a young woman named Alice comes into Martin Strauss’ life claiming to be Houdini’s daughter we learn that Houdini was a bit of a philanderer demanding answers about her father’s life and death Martin narrates the story of his own life as well as that of Harry Houdini In a bar one evening the paths of their lives cross in the most sudden of manners and Martin’s life changes irrevocably From that day on his life is linked to Houdini The book slips back and forth between Houdini’s early 1900’s and Martin’s present daySteven Galloway The Cellist of Sarajevo through Martin Strauss tells the story of Houdini from his beginnings as a Vaudeville performer through to his reign as “the most well known man in the world” That story in itself would have been interesting enough but Mr Galloway adds to it with so much He explores Houdini’s sometimes turbulent marriage to Bess; his close relationship with his mother; we learn the reason behind Houdini’s non stop uest to debunk spiritualists even taking on Margery Crandon the Witch of Beacon Hill and his foray into international espionage The Confabulist is populated with many of Houdini’s contemporaries including The Romanov family Rasputin Arthur Conan Doyle and prominent members of the US political arena of the time Mr Galloway weaves all of it into an exciting globetrotting sometimes humorous often suspenseful and occasionally heartbreaking – dare I say it – magical story Not to mention that he offers explanations and the how to of a few of the famous magician’s tricks and escapes as wellI would not hesitate to recommend this book to friends Mr Galloway managed to let the main characters shine and the many many other people populating this story to move it along nicely in the background He also navigates smoothly between Martin Strauss’ “present day” telling of the story while spending time with Alice and the 1920’s story itself I must admit that my knowledge of Houdini is limited to the movie starring Tony Curtis so I found the information about Houdini himself fascinating I may need to pick up a biography if I can find a good oneAnd like any good magic trick this book led up to a surprise twist at the end confabulate kənˈfæbjʊˌleɪt — vb1 to talk together; converse; chat2 psychiatry to replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be trueAs The Confabulist opens the aging Martin Strauss meets with a doctor who explains that Strauss is in the process of losing his mind while he will continue to perform all of his normal functions his memories will disappear and be replaced with imaginary ones This is a doubly interesting condition to affect him since memories and guilt have plagued Strauss his entire adult life because as he reveals right away he's the man who killed Harry Houdini Twice As he meets with Houdini's daughter Alice Strauss is compelled to unburden himself of his past; to apologise for depriving her of a father The book timeshifts between Strauss on the day of the diagnosis the history of Houdini Strauss' early days the fateful meeting where Strauss suckerpunched the great magician and Strauss' subseuent years In addition to all of these shifts each section usually had two time frames one present action and a related memory that shifted back and forth This might sound confusing but it worked since as the title suggests the nature of memory is a major theme of The Confabulist In a magic trick the things you don't see or think you see have a culmination because at the end of the trick there's an effect Misdirection tampers with reconstruction But if life works the same way and I believe it does then a percentage of our lives is fiction There's no way to know whether anything we've experienced is real or imagined Much of the Houdini information was interesting and the excitement was ratcheted up with spies and death threats the debunking of powerful spiritualists and a philosophical feud with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Strauss sections worked less well for me this unreliable narrator didn't do too much and in the end can never even explain what compelled him to throw that punch and if Steven Galloway is going to use this real person's infamy in a work of fiction I think he owes it to the man to at least construct a reasonable motivation Much of the philosophising about memory and there is a lot of it was a bit vague to me and I think that this book will be interesting to readers to the extent this they find this bit near the end insightful We think that our minds are like a library the right book is there somewhere if you can find it A whole story will then unfold with you as the narrator But our memory changes evolves erases Moments disappear and are replaced and combined What's left of a person after they're gone is a spirit of who and what they wereThis is where our pain comes from Because we know this is going to happen We feel it and it underwrites our mourningFor all of us the future is an unmade promise For the living there is the present and the past The past is always moving always changing as the people we lose are transformed in us The past is no place to live But it's the only place the dead lived On the other hand there were many passages that I did find well written and evocative and these are just a couple of examples Darkness has a way of making everything louder There's no way to identify the sounds coming at you You can imagine what they are but it's always a guess based on what you remember about the world before the light went out of it And He'd always thought a theatre felt strange without people in it With its seats empty its lights up and its air still it reminded him of a dead body I remember enjoying The Cellist of Sarajevo and most especially for the research just as I thought Galloway did a masterful job of evoking the terrible siege of that city I think that he excels here in bringing Harry Houdini to life and making him even larger than the known legend by adding fictional elements to his life's work Where both books fall short is in inducing empathy for the purely fictional characters and since I didn't really care about Martin Strauss in The Confabulist it became a less than perfect reading experience view spoilerAnd I can't imagine most people wouldn't see the twist ending coming but perhaps like an audience member looking for smoke and mirrors I ruined that for myself by not submitting to the misdirection hide spoiler I received an Advance Reader Copy of this one in exchange for an honest review so here goes with my honestyHarry Houdini led a fascinating life His career was only part of it He was a magician's magician an aviator and a fierce opponent of the spiritualism movement Martin Strauss the supposed 2 time killer of Houdini in The Confabulist never existed I guess I was hoping for a slightly fleshed out version of the story of the life and many deaths of Harry Houdini but instead it was a completely fabricated spy story with only partially realized characters I knew that Houdini's opposition to the spiritualism movement won him many enemies but the speculation in this book brought me so far outside the story that I couldn't enjoy it The best parts of the book were by far the descriptions of Houdini's escapes while the parts about Strauss were so washed out that I was unable to get a sense of him as a character I think I should have learned by now that fictionalized biographies and fabricated accounts of real people almost always fall flat in my opinion with a few notable exceptions I think I should have rather read a biography of Harry Houdini Well what a fascinating story If you are interested in Houdini or magic like I amyou would certainly want to read this book Galloway is such a diverse novelist and I can't wait to read what he has in store next The Cellist of Sarajevo was outstanding The Confabulist is a wondrous and mysterious tale Fiction is in the hands of a master when you are dealing with those who are craftsmen A very intriguing book It tells interwoven stories of two men whose paths scarcely crossed in real life Houdini the great magician and escape artist and a man called Martin Strauss Strauss was young man probably in his early twenties when he first met Houdini in 1926 The book opens in the present day when a much older Strauss is meeting with a doctor who is explaining that there is something medically wrong with Strauss Strauss is gradually losing his memory and his brain is replacing the lost memories with false memories confabulations so that Strauss will over time cease to know which of his memories are real The book alternates between chapters about Houdini going back to 1897 chapters about Strauss as a young man 1926 27 and chapters set in the present day Over the course of the book we learn a lot about magic tricks how they work what elements are essential to make them work and about the workings of the human mind how do know whether what we have seen is true Both men lead very exciting lives and their combined stories make for a very engaging book I know that some other reviews have complained about the fact vs fiction part of this book but I am choosing to just look at this as a story as I have no real knowledge about Houdini's life and after reading The Confabulist it makes me wonder if anybody has the real story on Houdini anywaysI really enjoyed it all of the twists and turns that it takes and the idea that not everything is as it seems that even our own memories have ways of playing tricks on us My only complaint is that I did not feel a bond with Martin Strauss the man who killed Houdini I know this is probably because a good portion of the book focusses on Houdini and not Martin and also because when we are first introduced to Martin in the book he is very confused about everything and is uestioning himself and his memories constantly This made me uestion everything he was remembering for the remainder of the book so I never really got a good feel for his characterAfter turning the final page I was left with a desire to read about Houdini and then re read this book But then I also think that if I DO read about Houdini and then re read The Confabulist that it will just raise uestions about what is real and what is confabulated and also about what my mind will allow me to believe Intriguing stuff I love when books make me uestion my reality I received this advanced reading copy as a giveaway on Goodreads and this in no way affected my review Thanks Goodreads and Random House I'm very conflicted about this book on one hand it had a very intriguing plot based on who Harry Houdini was and what all he possibly had done The book focusses on Harry Houdini and Martin Strauss whose lives intersect with regularity and a tad bit of magical realism The story structure has several flashbacks and flashforwards so as to say this can be uite confusing for any reader to keep track ofOverall I would say this book is a decent story which doesn't uite match up to the blurb and what it tries to aim for Ultimately it's a 3 12 star book I’m not sure if I’ve recommended this author before or not but the book I want to recommend this month is THE CONFABULIST by Steven Galloway The first of his books I read was ASCENSION and it had one of the most riveting opening chapters I have ever read This new book is about the magician Houdini and the man who killed him It is a twisted puzzler wrapped around the lives of the two man and many others a love story for each and the ways in which we view life when we want to remake it This kept me reading all the way through It does not have an opening chapter of the same power as ASCENSION but the close will make you think twice about what you thought this book was about Steven Galloway’s The Confabulist is a much ambitious book than his earlier work The Confabulist like Harry Houdini is elusive deals with misdirection plays with time and attempts to answer many uestions about one’s memory the changing faces of appearance and reality and the nature of human motivations and relationships The book is an exploration of its title A Confabulist noun is a word from psychiatry and means the replacement of a gap in a person’s memory by a falsification that he or she believes be trueIn order to evolve the title of the book into a narrative Galloway shifts time frames with regularity from the present where the book begins to the past Galloway weaves the story of Houdini’s rise to prominence with that of Martin Strauss the man who believes he killed Houdini and is the narrator of the story and the man who is slowly losing his memory and becoming a confabulist It is a fascinating premise for a novel and holds much promise for a study of memory and magicTo me however there were too many rough patches I The book we have many explanations of how Houdini created his magic too many After a while I lost interest in the manner in which the magic occurred The novel tells how Houdini became evolved with political intrigue spiritualists and love affairs among other events Weaving in and out of the narrative and flashing back and forth in time we also follow the life of Martin Strauss as he searches for the reason why he hit Houdini as he is recruited to be a spy and then his adventures as he tries to hide from others who desire to harm himNow I get the fact that Martin’s mind is fading and the fact that there are parallels between how one perceives and believes in magic while at the same time knowing it is not as it appears Still for me the book stuttered too often began to drag too much nearing the end and was not completely successful in its time shiftsFor me not enough magic to give the book than three stars

About the Author: Steven Galloway

Finnie Walsh was nominated for the

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