Read Der Illusionist by Steven Galloway Online

der-illusionist

Was ist wahr, und was ist Illusion?Erzählern 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 ErinnerunWas ist wahr, und was ist Illusion?Erzählern 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?...

Title : Der Illusionist
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ISBN : 9783630874579
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Der Illusionist Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-05-16 05:18

    What no one knows, save for myself and one other person who likely died long ago, is that I didn’t just kill Harry Houdini. I killed him twice.Stephen Galloway, the award-winning author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, takes on a legendary real-life character and tries to make some magic with his lesser known history. He tells a tale of Houdini, vaudevillian superstar, greatest magician of his time, escape artist extraordinaire and, maybe, an international spy. Martin Strauss is none of these things. When we meet him, in the present day of the tale, he has learned that he has just gotten some bad news: ”Yours is a rare condition,” [the doctor] said, seeming almost excited, “in which the damage that is being done to your brain does not destroy cognitive function but instead affects your brain’s ability to store and process memories. In response to this, your brain will invent new memories.”So, Harry Houdini meets Memento?The authorStrauss, a student in Montreal, is fascinated with magic, although he is not a capable practitioner. He is smitten with a young lady who shares his interest, and when they have a chance to see the great Harry Houdini perform, they avail. Strauss is not the most secure beau and when the object of his desire seems more interested in the famed escape artist than is comfortable, things get heated.On October 31, 1926, the real-life Houdini died from a ruptured appendix. A few days earlier, in Montreal, a student named Whitehead was granted permission to punch Houdini in the stomach, a test of the performer’s claim that it would not hurt him. Under normal circumstances it might not have, but it turned out that Houdini was compromised with a case of appendicitis. He kept traveling and performing, but was brought to a hospital in Detroit, in severe pain, and died there. Ascribing his death to the student’s blows was really a ploy to get his life insurance to pay double. “Houdini’s death has always really interested me. What would it be like to be the guy who punched Harry Houdini in the stomach?” from the Globe and Mail interview There are alternating tale-tellers in The Confabulist. Martin Strauss speaks for himself, and the Houdini chapters are told by an omniscient narrator. The time lines are dual as well, present day alternating with a past that advances from 1897, before Houdini had achieved world-wide renown, to 1927, as Martin recalls and we see for ourselves what transpired. We cover some real estate in The Confabulist, as well, from Canada to New York to sundry locales in Europe.Houdini – image from wikimediaWe get to see how the gifted Erik Weisz, a Budapest-born son of a rabbi, became the amazing Houdini, professionally and theatrically. There are explanations for a few of the stage tricks of the age, and that is a particular bit of fun. There is some insight into how the entertainment business of the early 20th century was run, and a look at the latter day Houdini as an exposer of charlatan psychics and spiritualists.When asked how he landed on Houdini for his new novel, Galloway says he was fascinated by the showman’s iconic status, but also by the fact that Houdini himself was a sort of fiction. “Most magicians are kind of made-up characters, but him more than any. He’s a Hungarian Jew pretending to be Mr. America. Most of what he said about himself biographically was a total, total lie. So I just kind of arrived there and never left.” - from the Globe and Mail interviewStrauss’s history is far less interesting, but in his musings we get at some of the thematic issues of the novel. Some insight into international intelligence goings on of the period is also noteworthy. What is real and what an illusion is a consistent theme throughout the tale, on stage and offHow is it we can be so sure that we’ve seen, heard and experienced what we think we have? 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 a fiction. There’s no way to know whether anything we have seen or experienced is real or imaginedora memory isn’t a finished product, it’s a work in progressSo does Galloway succeed in making magic? Only somewhat. There are two issues I had with the book. One is the inherent difficulty of having an unreliable narrator. That this is done openly from the opening chapter does not make it any less problematic. How are we to know if what Strauss reports is true or imagined? And if one cannot know if what he reports is real, it makes for difficulty in relating to his experience, and knowing for ourselves that what we are reading is or is not an accurate rendering of events. The dimorphism between the wonderful tale of Houdini’s and the far less gripping tale of Martin Strauss makes one want to slip the knots of Martin’s chapters to make one’s way back to the real action. And, while the story of Houdini does succeed in holding our interest, it seemed to me that there remained a distance between reader and character, even for Houdini, that kept one from the sort of emotional engagement that is needed if we are to feel much for him. Martin is an obvious literary device, so one does not hope for too much there. But one does want to feel more of an investment in Houdini than was possible here. There are compelling elements at play in The Confabulist. The contemplation of reality versus illusion counts as a strength. On the other hand, the rationale for Strauss’s attack on Houdini seemed forced. One would expect that there is a marvelous story encased in the available elements. Unfortunately, the tale is only able to extract a limb or two and remains locked up. While there is no obvious tell in the author’s literary sleight of hand, there is certainly enough going on to sustain a reader’s interest, this remains an instance when the magic simply does not quite go poof.Publication date – 5/6/14Posted here - 6/20/14This review was originally posted at Fantasy Book Critic on 6/16/14It has also been posted at Cootsreviews.com=============================EXTRA STUFFThe condition ascribed to Martin Strauss was discovered by one Sergei Korsakoff, a Russian neuropsychiatrist, who is represented in The Confabulist by a Russian Dr. Korsakoff practicing in the West, presumably New York. Here is some info on the actual condition.A bit of info on Harry HoudiniInterviews with the author – from The Globe and Mail and The National PostHoudini’s grave

  • Terry Brooks
    2019-05-08 08:03

    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.

  • Krista
    2019-05-19 05:25

    confabulate (kənˈfæbjʊˌleɪt) — vb1. to talk together; converse; chat.2. psychiatry to replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be true.As 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' subsequent 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 were.This is where our pain comes from. Because we know this is going to happen. We feel it and it underwrites our mourning.For 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 spoiler)[And 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)]

  • Christine
    2019-04-26 10:08

    * 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 day.Steven 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 more. He explores Houdini’s, sometimes turbulent, marriage to Bess; his close relationship with his mother; we learn the reason behind Houdini’s non-stop quest 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 U.S. 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 well.I 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 one.And … like any good magic trick this book led up to a surprise twist at the end.

  • Katie
    2019-05-09 04:20

    I received an Advance Reader Copy of this one in exchange for an honest review, so here goes with my honesty...Harry 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 more fleshed out version of the story of the life and (many) death(s) 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.

  • Casceil
    2019-04-30 08:15

    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.

  • MeggieBree
    2019-05-01 05:22

    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 anyways!I 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 questioning himself and his memories constantly. This made me question everything he was remembering for the remainder of the book, so I never really got a good feel for his character.After 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 more questions 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 question 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!

  • Andrea
    2019-05-18 08:29

    Well what a fascinating story! If you are interested in Houdini, or magic like I am,you 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.

  • Mihir
    2019-04-28 05:17

    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 quite confusing for any reader to keep track of.Overall I would say this book is a decent story which doesn't quite match up to the blurb and what it tries to aim for. Ultimately it's a 3 & 1/2 star book

  • Cameron
    2019-05-25 09:17

    Well that was a really sad but extremely well-written novel. I love Steven Galloway's writing and I think I shall continue to read his works.

  • John
    2019-04-28 05:31

    First of all, a confession: I picked this up recently at Albacon because, at a glance, I thought it had been written by Stephen Gallagher, of whom I'm a fan. The blurb didn't make the book sound like one of Steve's, but it did sound fascinating. Added to which was that, a few months ago, I did a reasonable amount of research on Houdini for the purposes of my forthcoming nonfiction book Spooky Science; I have, as it were, a residual interest in the man. So I took the book despite its being by the wrong Steve, and am very glad that I did.At first I thought I'd made a mistake, as the tone of the early parts of the book is reminiscent of those dreadful semi-fictionalized biographies that were popular half a century or more ago -- the ones that purported to be straight biographies but included, for example, snatches of invented conversation. But then Galloway got into his stride and, while this isn't a book that'll appeal to fans of action adventure (there's action and there's adventure in it, but they're not recounted in thriller style), I found it completely engrossing.About half of the narrative concerns Houdini, and what I suppose we could call two invented conspiracy theories. One is that Houdini was paid by the UK and US security services and/or cops to spy on all the foreign heads of state with whom he mingled. The other is that the pillars of the Spiritualist movement, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included, were engaged in a conspiracy to take over the world by nobbling powerful politicians and monarchs. Little did the Spiritualists know it, according to the novel, but while they were attempting to pull the strings of the powerful there was an eminence grise pulling their strings. There's a kind of Jeffrey Ford feeling to this element of the book; in fact, since Galloway's style is not dissimilar to Jeff's (it's a bit less quirky, but there's the same admirable dispassion), I found I quite often had to remind myself that this wasn't a Ford piece!The other half (probably less than half) concerns Martin Strauss. One theory about Houdini's death was that it was indirectly caused a McGill University student called Whitehead; Whitehead took Houdini at his word when the conjurer said he could take the hardest of punches in his abdomen without concern. Moments later, punches having been delivered, Houdini, obviously in pain, asked Whitehead to stop. Days later he died of a ruptured appendix. It's controversial, to say the least, that the punches burst the appendix, but it's an extant theory. Galloway takes it and runs with it, renaming Whitehead as Strauss.Immediately after Houdini's death, Martin went on the run, believing that Houdini fans might be out for his blood. He even dumped his beloved girlfriend Clara in case his presence might make her, too, a target. In the "present day" (which, calculating people's ages, must be long before the novel's pub date of 2014), Martin is telling his story to Alice, an illegitimate daughter whom apparently the world -- and Houdini himself -- never realized the conjurer had. Martin's revelations necessitate something of a rewriting of the history of at least the first half of the 20th century, as well as of Houdini's biography. What we slowly come to recognize is that there are strong parallels between Martin and Houdini, even though their lives have been in most respects totally different.Galloway has obviously researched this well. The parts of Houdini's life that particularly interested me for Spooky Science were the attempt by Lady Jean Doyle (Sir Arthur's wife) to persuade Houdini she'd had a communique from his dead mother, and Houdini's exposure of the fake -- but highly successful -- Boston medium Mina "Margery" Crandon. He got the Doyle incident spot-on, and I think he gave a very convincing "alternative" explanation of the Crandon episode.As will be plain, I enjoyed this book a very great deal, and would recommend it to any thoughtful reader. I'll be looking out for more of Galloway's work.

  • Matt Musselman
    2019-05-13 04:06

    I began reading this book immediately after an event with the author where he read an excerpt (albeit, probably not the most engaging one, but I suppose he didn't want to spoil anything) and then talked about his research and answered lots of questions about the book and its topics in general. I was already suspecting superficial similarities to The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and when Galloway mentioned that Michael Chabon is amongst the list of authors he respects the most, I figured the similarities might be even better than superficial and was sold on giving this book a chance.The Confabulist is a work of historical fiction, based around the lives of Harry Houdini (née Ehrich Weiss) and Martin Strauss, the McGill University student who punched him in the stomach, an event traditionally blamed for triggering Houdini's death from a burst appendix.Houdini and Strauss the Puncher narrate alternating chapters of the novel, through a mix of current and flashback materials. The author himself claimed a personal interest in magic, and it shows in his writing: the book includes some thick yet savoury bits of details about picking locks, disabling handcuffs, reading minds, and making elephants disappear. To a magic-apathetic or less-technical reader these passages might be tiresome, but I found them really interesting; they also helped to reinforce Houdini's oft-stated self-perception of being someone who does "nothing supernatural, but that still doesn't mean simply anyone can do the things I do."Biographies often speculate around what the real Houdini was doing travelling so often to places like Berlin and Moscow, so the book capitalizes on those suspicions: What if? What if he was indeed working for the foreign service of one or more of those countries? Wouldn't his performance itinerary provide the perfect cover? And is it entirely a coincidence that the skills of a magician and the skills of a spy heavily overlap? What if Houdini's impassioned debunking of spiritualists wasn't motivated merely by personal philosophy but also a concern about what knowledge and influence mediums were gaining through their associations to world leaders?All in all, I found the book to be a page-turning, engaging, educating read, and despite some minor misgivings here or there, my only criticism of it is that it ended so soon. I easily could have lived in this world for another 300 pages. But the author said the book was the culmination of a four-year research and writing project and that he was ready to move onto the next topic, and I can't fault him for that.

  • Book Concierge
    2019-05-25 05:28

    From the dust jacket History says Harry Houdini died from a ruptured appendix, possibly the result of an ill-timed punch to the abdomen. But is the death of such a magician, one who built his career on illusion and sleight of hand, to be trusted? [Galloway] weaves together the life, loves and death of Houdini with the story of the person who secretly knows he killed him: Martin Strauss, an everyday man whose fate seems forever tied to the magician’s in complex and unforeseen ways. Martin is our guide to this early-20th-century world of vaudeville-theater and spectacle, full of escapes from straitjackets and water tanks, and also to Houdini’s tangled web of love affairs and international espionage. In the end, the narrative creates a magic trick of its own, revealing the ways in which love, grief and imagination can – for better or worse – alter what we perceive and believe.My reactionsWhere do I start? Galloway’s narrative had me running to Wikipedia and other sources to check some of the “facts” presented in the book. Some elements were clearly straight from Houdini’s life, but others were obvious fabrications. I have no problem with that; it’s a work of fiction, after all.The book is told in alternating chapters: Martin Strauss in the present day; Martin Strauss in 1926-1927; Harry Houdini 1897-1926. It starts with Strauss in the present day relating that he has just been diagnosed with a rare brain condition which will affect his memory and lead to his gradually losing his mind. The next chapter focuses on Houdini’s early career. The story then returns to Martin in the present day, followed by a chapter focusing on Martin in 1926. And so on.The book’s structure poses some difficulties, but Houdini was a fascinating character in real life and is equally fascinating in this fictionalized account. Galloway fueled my imagination and kept me turning pages. I found myself constantly trying to figure out the trick of the book’s narrative, but like a skilled magician Galloway kept the reader’s attention away from what was REALLY happening and led us to what he wanted us to believe was happening. I’m still not sure I fully understood everything that was going on, but I enjoyed the ride. In the end, I’m left feeling that I just saw an elephant disappear …. I know it was a trick, but I don’t know how he did it.

  • Sandie
    2019-05-14 11:08

    In psychology, confabulation is a memory disturbance, in which one produces fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive. Since the person is unaware that the information they are volunteering is false, they are usually confident and convincing in their recollections. In THE CONFABULIST, author Steven Galloway introduces us to Martin Strauss, the confabulist and Erich Weiss aka Harry Houdini, the confounder who achieved international fame.I truly don't know how to categorize this book. It is part cloak and dagger spy novel, part historical fiction, part discerning character study, and part expose on the "tricks of the magic trade". Interwoven into the first person account of a Montreal man named Martin Strauss whose life is inexorably connected to Houdini is a third person narration focusing primarily on the life of Erich Weiss, from his hard-scrabble beginnings in Wisconsin to his ultimate success as Houdini, the world renowned magician/illusionist/escape artist, a persona he deliberately and painstakingly created.By blending the compelling and true aspects of the life of a pragmatic Houdini with conjecture and a vivid imagination Galloway gives us a Houdini who is selfish, arrogant and self-involved - - a man who is a first-rate performer, a second-rate spy and a third-rate husband. His other character, Martin Strauss is the elderly guilt ridden man recently diagnosed with a rare and degenerative brain malady who seeks to tell the story of his connection to the great Houdini before it's too late. The question is, "Is it already too late - and are his memories real or a result of his disease?"What is painfully obvious in Galloway's novel is that both of his primary characters are as alike as Siamese twins and both, either by design or by an act of fate, are captives of the illusion and reality of their everyday lives.

  • Mary
    2019-05-20 05:03

    I received The Confabulist from the publisher as a Goodreads giveaway. Given the brief description of the plot I normally would not have expressed interest in reading a story such as this that is outside my current preferred genre. However, I had previously read Galloway's The Cellist of Sarajevo and loved it. So, I was happy when I was selected to preview his latest book.I was not disappointed! The story flows through distinct chapters involving the famed magician Harry Houdini and the life of an apparently ordinary man named Martin Strauss. Houdini's exploits are described in the third person while Strauss tells his story in his own voice, a writing style that distinguishes the two stories in a fashion that leads the reader to wonder how the connection between the two men will reveal itself eventually. The book begins with Strauss learning of his unhappy fate, and then his declaration that he killed Harry Houdini, twice. The story then focuses on the life and exploits of the celebrity magician. It is a world that is replete with intrigue and somewhat fanciful circumstances that I began to wonder which parts were part of the historical record and which parts were fiction. I thought I knew quite a bit about the life and death of Houdini, but this was an artful depiction that I had never heard before. As the tale of his life weaved on, and occasionally intersected with Strauss' stress-filled existence, I began to suspect that there was another underlying story being told that I couldn't quite decipher but was expected to figure out eventually. In fact, the ending came as a shock; leaving me to return to the beginning of the book to confirm that I, the reader, had been duped! I was left delighted and happy to have read a book that intrigued, challenged and satisfied.

  • Toni Osborne
    2019-05-12 07:31

    “The Confabulist” is a historically rich and ingeniously told story about illusion and the ways tricks of magic can for better or worst alter what we perceive and give credence to. The clever and entertaining narrative portrays the vivid alluring world of a first class magic show and weaves together the life, loves and the sudden death of one of the world’s greatest magician, Harry Houdini, with the story of Martin Strauss, an ordinary man, as his life turns upside down after accidentally killing the great magician.No doubts, most of what we read is made up for our entertainment and it does that with excellence. The story is intricate and flows beautifully through distinct chapters to immerse us into the lives of the two main players. The first person narrative follows Martin as he slowly replaces facts with false memories and the third person follows Houdini’s long life trickeries around the world. The story tells how this illusionist danced between effect, method, misdirection and reconstruction to choreograph successfully his magic and evocative flashbacks details his rise to stardom and his crusade to expose mediums and charlatans. We are also given the idea that Houdini may have been a spy working for both the U.S. and British Intelligence and this notion is somewhat believable. And of course we have the inevitable love story for a tad of romance.This novel is a fiction and may not be for everyone but real or not…..let your imagination match the magic of this wonderful tale told by a master story teller and enjoyed every moment for what it is….entertainment..

  • Cheryl
    2019-04-28 07:18

    Confabulist is a magical, entertaining, illusion of a read! I dove right into this book. Right away I was memorized by Houdini. In this book I got to become more familiar with the man behind the illuisionist. I don't say magician as Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin said it best when he quoted these words "A magician is an actor playing the role of a magician." I have never really spend much time on the thought of magicians only that I do find them fascinating. However if you think about this quote and what you love the most about this profession and some of the people in it like Houdini, Copperfield, Blaine, Angel, etc. then you will realize that they are all just men who know how to put on a really good show all thanks to the act of illusion. Not that I am bashing any of these guys as if it were not for people like this then I would not have anything to believe in regarding "magic". Mr. Galloway intermingled Houdini and Strauss's lives perfectly. In fact, I was convinced for a long time that the author had done a "trick" of his own involving the two men. So when the true story was revealed in the end, I was a little surprised. Not all the way surprised because I did figure it out at teh same time that the reveal was happening. The story was good. Also, I liked the secrets that Houdini gave away with his acts. It was like getting an exclusive with Houdini himself if he was still alive into some of his acts. Even knowing how he did it was still impressive. I will be keeping my eye on Mr. Galloway and what he has up his sleeve next.

  • Brenda Ayala
    2019-05-01 07:20

    The confabulist follows two different characters, Houdini himself and Strauss--the guy who punched Houdini in the stomach and killed him. Or so we think.What follows is a fictionalized account of Houdini's life. The problem was this: it read too much like nonfiction, and Strauss' entire portions of the book felt like wasted space to me. I didn't really care about Strauss and his bungled attempt at romance with Clara. Call me a denizen of hell, but I didn't much care about his condition either. I wanted to read about Houdini, and Strauss got in the way.But when I did get to read about Houdini it fell flat. He never felt fleshed out like a real person. He was two-dimensional, and apparently had no personality other than being vehemently opposed to people posing as mediums. Based on these pages, Houdini was a guy who was hellbent on using every breath to condemn all mediums. Which is fine, but it didn't paint a picture. His numerous affairs were mentioned in passing. We didn't get to see him practice his feats or design his boxes. There is no reasoning given for why he stayed with his wife despite them being unhappy together. If anything, it just seemed like the author needed to put a famous name to snag attention for his book. It worked to get my attention, but fell flat after that. Houdini is just a name attributed to a random illusionist who decides to hate one group of charlatans more than the rest.

  • Allen Murphey
    2019-04-27 11:14

    An intricate, affecting story that follows the lives of performer extraordinaire Harry Houdini and everyman Martin Strauss. Chronicling the lives and the intersections of the two men for the length of Houdini’s career and beyond, Galloway has woven a tale, richly based on fact, of intrigue, illusion, memory, and questions of reality, told from several very interesting points of view. Looking back, which memories can we know for sure are real?A very interesting take on the life, performances, and passions of Harry Houdini, both on stage and off. Strauss’s points of view are both contemporary with Houdini and looking back from the end of his life and give, at times, an almost surreal quality to the story. The reader becomes an active participant, deciding which parts are real, which are illusion. Galloway presents a compelling story that entertains us, that involves us, and that, long after its completion, makes us wonder about our own remembered past. I enjoyed reading this book very much -- the writing drew me in and the intrigue and the story keep me reading. But I think I'm enjoying it more now that I've completed it. The ending was so compelling and so identifiable (Maybe I'm getting too old and these things scare me more now.) that The Confabulist has become one of those rare books that I find myself pondering long after I've completed the actual reading.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-19 05:13

    I was expecting a lot more from this. I snagged an ARC at ALA because I was trying to expand my adult novel reading and I'm a historical fiction fan. I recognized the author's name but had never read anything by him before. Since he's a well-known and respected author, I expected excellent writing and a quality story. I was disappointed. The writing is utilitarian - not terrible, but nothing special either. At times, the telling of the story felt clunky and awkward. I had little to no interest in Martin's story, wanting to read more about Houdini's story. This fact made the ending pretty terrible for me (I don't want to give anything away, but it pretty much ruined the book for me). Really, it felt like Galloway was trying to be so terribly clever with this book, like he was writing this thought-provoking novel on truth and memory and the lies we tell ourselves and really, the book just doesn't hold up to all that hype. Obviously, the deception a magician uses was supposed to parallel the story we were reading, but it felt like a really terrible magic show in the end.

  • Elizabeth☮
    2019-04-27 09:27

    This book connects the lives of Martin Strauss and Harry Houdini. Martin Strauss is a college student when he sees Houdini perform and then punches him in the stomach afterward. Houdini dies later from the injuries. But this is only the beginning of the story, because Strauss admits he kills Houdini twice. Oh the wonder.The story is told in flashback, but the plot line is not linear, so the narrative jumps back and forth between plot points and it can be jarring. The bits about Houdini and his magic are engaging and interesting. How Strauss and Houdini's lives come together is a bit of a journey and one that seems to take a while even though this is a relatively short book. I wasn't as taken with it as I thought I would be.

  • Ann
    2019-04-26 11:13

    Houdini's fabulous life is interesting, but I didn't connect with Martin Strauss, the man who killed Houdini twice. I loved the title, and there are many worthwhile moments, but on the whole this one didn't resonate with me anywhere close to the Cellist of Sarajevo. It must be hard to be held to the standard of previous novels, but I was expecting more.

  • ~ Cheryl ~
    2019-05-06 04:30

    DNF’dThe premise of this book is that there is a man whose memory is faulty, and he insists that he has killed Harry Houdini. Twice. The narrative starts off really strong with faulty-memory-guy telling us (in first-person present tense) about a session he’s having with his psychiatrist. The entire first chapter makes for a promising set-up. But then it starts jumping around in time. And we start getting, intermittently, snapshots in the life of Harry Houdini, told in third-person POV. I found I was more interested in faulty-memory-guy’s voice, but Harry’s chapters got longer. There was some interesting stuff about Houdini learning to pick locks at a young age; and some cool info about how some magic tricks work.But then, there’s this long bit (I think it's in 1904, but it jumped around year-wise, I lost track) where Houdini is approached by a member of the U.S. Secret Service, and he makes some confusing proposition to Houdini about working for the government (sort of) to teach the Secret Service men some of his skills, and the next thing you know, Houdini is approached by these three hoods who ask him to break into a casino to plant marked cards and Houdini tries to evade them but they trick him with a telegram from his mother and he ends up doing the break-in at gunpoint, and then afterward the original Secret Service guy shows up askinghimtogotoEuropeZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..When I woke up the book was at 33% on my kindle.I had hoped this was going to be more of a mind-bending story with an unreliable narrator who remembers killing Harry Houdini. And that the parts about Houdini were going to be interesting, like in a historical fiction sort of way. But the whole thing seemed disjointed and corny and it just wasn’t doing it for me. Maybe if I’d stuck it out, I would have been rewarded with a twist or a big reveal at the end. But I doubt it. Life’s too short. I’m movin on.

  • Aimee Hyndman
    2019-04-29 05:08

    *This review may contain spoilers* What's it about? "The Confabulist" is a novel of Harry Houdini - his life, loves and illusions before his sudden, shocking death - as it explores how much of our lives is real and how much is an illusion? As the world's gaze is focused on the feats and daring of magician Harry Houdini, not a soul is aware of the down-and-out Martin Strauss. However Strauss' fate is inextricably linked with the magician's, and as Houdini continues to rise, and Strauss continues to fall, their lives will converge in spectacular and devastating fashion...A novel of magic and memory, truth and illusion, and the ways that love, hope, grief and imagination can alter what we see and what we believe.Who's the author?Steven Galloway is the author of best-selling novel, "The Cellist of Sarajevo." Born in Vancouver and raised in British Columbia, he attended the University College of the Cariboo and the University of British Columbia. His first novel, "Finnie Walsh" was nominated for a Canada First Novel Award, his second, "Ascension," was nominated for the BC Book Prize's Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and his third novel, "The Cellist of Sarajevo," was heralded as "the work of an expert" by The Guardian. "The Confabulist" is Galloway's latest novel. Was it any good? It was good. Not great, not bad. Just good. This novel had everything a good novel should have; it was exciting, tense, intriguing, thrilling and a gripping read. It had believable characters; characters that came alive in your mind as you read. It was, or seems to me to be at least, historically accurate; the details of Houdini's life in the book correlate with the details of Houdini's life in a documentary I watched a few weeks ago, titled "Houdini." The novel feels real and because of this the events that unfold play out in your mind vividly. But there's also a lot of confusion, and this gets in the way of a good read. The very foundation of the story, that Martin Strauss is losing his memories and is unable to determine which are real and which are false, is confusing and this presents itself throughout. The ending is weak and rushed, and almost feels like an after-thought. It is also confusing and I still have unanswered questions that the ending did nothing to explain away. I enjoyed the majority of this novel; it grabbed me, it kept me interested and, at times, enthralled. But in parts it was severely lacking, and that's what makes this only a good read for me.Would I recommend it? Yes. Despite my complaints this is still a brilliant read that kept me hooked till the end, and that fans of intrigue, suspense, thrillers and Houdini would enjoy.

  • Michael
    2019-05-02 05:26

    confabulate: (psychiatry) to replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be true.This is a novel about truth and what it means to different people in different circumstances. Centred around one real and famous character, the illusionist Harry Houdini, we are challenged to trust what is happening, what is said, what we are presented.Houdini was called a 'magician' but he was always clear on maintaining he was more of a trickster, that there was nothing magic about his tricks and that, given the dedication, effort and work at mastering the skills virtually anyone could do what he did.He was stunned by the death of his mother and in his state of shock went to mediums who promised they could put him in touch with her 'in the after life'. But after only a couple of sessions he realised that they were just tricksters like himself, the only difference being that they denied they were playing tricks and conned people (mainly for financial gain) who were suffering the same level of grief as himself.In very publicly exposing these fraudsters he made a lot of enemies, some of the people believing in spirit mediums being connected with people in positions of power and wealth – the US was even in the 1920s and 30s a very mixed up society. This conflict he had with such people has always provided grist to the mill of conspiracy theorists.Then we have the fictional character, Martin Strauss. What do we make of him? He's not like Houdini, a professional trickster who admits it, or the mediums, professional tricksters that don't admit it. Strauss truly believes what he tells us but is it really the truth? We're given the clue in the title of the book but that doesn't mean to say he's always lying, either intentionally or due to the tricks his own memory might be playing upon him.By using the tricks that memory sometimes plays on us (do we always remember things as they actually were or just what we want them to be) Galloway is constantly asks us to make decisions on what is said in the story. We are asked to believe one or other of the characters but we can't believe all of them.This is a book about mind games and it doesn't really matter which side you come down on. After all, it's only a novel.

  • Marianne
    2019-05-08 04:12

    The Confabulist is the fourth novel by Canadian author, Steven Galloway. Martin Strauss admits upfront to being an unreliable narrator; after all, his doctor has just told him “Yours is a rare condition in which the damage that is being done to your brain does not destroy cognitive function but instead affects your brain’s ability to store and process memories. In response to this, your brain will invent new memories.” The reader does well to keep this in mind as Martin tells the tale of his encounter, as a young man, with the famous Harry Houdini, an encounter that ends with him causing Houdini’s death. Or does it? Martin tells us “I didn’t just kill Harry Houdini. I killed him twice.” Intriguing, to say the least. Galloway weaves many known facts and real people from Houdini’s life into his novel, bringing to life historical facts and anecdotes whilst constructing his mystery. The narration switches between Martin’s life in the present day, Martin’s life in 1926 and 1927, and details of incidents in Houdini’s life. Just as in any good magic show, the reader is left wondering what, precisely, is fact and what is illusion, no doubt exactly as Galloway intended. As well as enthralling the reader with accounts and explanations of Houdini’s tricks, Martin’s version of Houdini’s life includes the Secret Service, Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, the Russian secret police, Russian nobility, séances and spiritualists, kidnap and coercion, diaries in code, a Congress Judiciary Subcommittee, spies and thieves, murder and a mystery daughter. Martin’s mother offers advice long after she departs this world, providing a source of both wisdom and humour. Galloway explores the nature of truth: “…truth wasn’t easily identifiable. You could spot a lie, but the opposite of a lie wasn’t always the truth”; of parenthood: “Being a parent is a monumental thing. You shape reality for another person. You cannot be an illusion”; and of memory: “A memory isn’t a finished product, it’s a work in progress” and “What is a memory anyway, other than a ghost of something that’s been gone for a long time?” This novel is imaginative, intriguing and ultimately, very moving.

  • Dana
    2019-05-25 07:28

    "The Confabulist" was a unique retelling of the life of famed magician Harry Houdini with a magical twist. Told in part by Harry and in part by the man believed to have killed Harry when he punched him in the stomach and ruptured his appendix, the narration mesmerized me. The author incorporated all of Harry's most famous illusions into the story exceptionally well, and those portions of the story were my favorite. The rich language the author used brought every detail to life.For a historical fiction book, this took on a realistic quality, which I attribute the strong writing. Small details made each person seem like multi-dimensional real people rather than characters. I was intrigued by the author's proposition that there was more to Harry's odd death than what appeared. The teaser kept me turning the pages, although the plot supporting that contention wasn't exactly what I expected. I felt compassion for Harry's wife, who fell in love with Harry then fell into the somewhat mandatory role of being his stage assistant. Like other historical fiction books, think "The Paris Wife" or "The Aviator's Wife", the story of Harry's wife was not a love story I wanted to copy. Instead, she was a sad character who lived a depressing life that only had the illusion of happiness. What really made this story stand apart was the lyrical writing that brought magic and mystery together in an entertaining way.I really enjoyed this and am interested to read more by Steven Galloway.I would love if you would follow me on twitter, @dana_heyde, or on my blog, http://fastpageturner.wordpress.com

  • Jenny Kim
    2019-05-03 05:07

    Intrigued, engrossed and engaged throughout the book. It has actions, thrills and corruptions that make for a fun read that I couldn’t put down. There is also a surprise ending which made me dissect what I’ve read to figure out what are true and what are made up. Secrets behind the magic tricks that made Houdini so popular in his days are revealed so for those who like to be kept in the dark should avoid this book.This book is about Houdini, the most famous magician/ escape artist of 20th century but it is also a mixture of fictional and non-fictional work of his second life. He was a spy for secret polices of United Stated and Great Britain which forced him to travel all over Europe to find out the secrets of possible enemies’ prison cells and other pertinent information. And later on Houdini was a crusader against Spiritualism (Conan Doyle), because he believed it was corrupting the society and the government.This book is also about Martin Strauss, the man who kills Houdini and becomes involuntary involved in Houdini’s crusade. He brings most of the emotional impact to this book.The author shows deft in his ability to draw the reader into the story, I was engage and immerse in the lives of Houdini and Martin. I discovered that Martin’s accounts may not be what it seemed and question the truthfulness of narrator, which made for a head scratching fun. There is just enough emotional complexities for me to chew on leaving the unsaid for self conclusion.

  • Victoria
    2019-05-21 08:15

    This novel immediately captures attention with its subject matter - and all the more so with a factual phrase that comes frequently in the book - Harry Houdini, the most famous man in the world. For a time, the magician was known to everyone - and even today, his fame is still known. This novelization of Houdini’s life is told alongside historical and modern chapters in the life of Martin Strauss - the man who may have been responsible for Houdini’s death. This combination makes for a highly engaging read - and a surprisingly thought-provoking one on mankind’s relationship with magic. The book contains moments of humour and the characters all feel quite realistic. I don’t know much about Houdini’s life, but this paints an exciting and extraordinary life. I am sure some diehard Houdini-fans may take offence with Galloway’s use of artistic license in painting this picture of Houdini, but it is certainly an entertaining one. It’s an absorbing read! While the ending twist is a bit predictable, it works well here. It’s an enjoyable read and an interesting blend of fact and fiction to create its own neatly tied together reality. I think it’s very well done!

  • Corinne Wilson
    2019-05-18 10:02

    Galloway did a masterful job of blending the facts of Houdini's incredible life with fiction. We switch from the third person narrative of Houdini's career, affairs, and political intrigues to the first person narrative of the man who killed him (twice) and is now losing his memory in his old age (his memory is being replaced by confabulations, memories that never happened). Martin Strauss' narrative isn't nearly as strong as Houdini's throughout, and though the ending (that Martin has projected all the failures of his life onto Houdini's life, and his confabulated memories are the real ones) provides some food for thought, Martin's telling could have used a lot more depth, much more of why he cares so much about the people he has repressed because he can't handle his own failures. As it is, Strauss' life is conspicuously blank throughout the book, and I predicted the ending before the big reveal.