The magician who lost faith in his magic


The Trick: A Novel by Emanuel Bergmann, Atria Books, US $26.00, Pp 376, September 2017, ISBN 978-1501155826

The Trick is set in the pre-World War II Germany and Europe. Moshe Goldenhirsch, a rabbi’s son, joins a traveling circus and becomes a magician. He is so good at performing his magical tricks that he becomes hugely famous under his adopted stage name of Great Zabbatini. When World War II starts, he is discovered to be a Jew. His battered trunk with magic tricks is his only hope of surviving the Holocaust. He survives and moves to the United States.

Seventy years later in Los Angeles, ten-year-old Max Cohn finds a scratched-up LP that records Great Zabbatini performing his great tricks. Unfortunately, the track with Great Zabbatini performing his love spell is scratched and cannot be played. Max believes that only the scratched track can save his disintegrating family. Max seeks help from elderly, cynical Moshe and begs him to perform his magic on his parents. But, the problem is Moshe has stopped believing in anything. The two of them develop an unlikely friendship.

Moshe soon discovers that Max’s family had a surprising connection to the dark days when he was in the concentration camp. The Trick is a deeply moving story about a young boy who believes in everything including magic and a disillusioned old man who believes in nothing. Their lives may be separated by 70 years, there is something common between them. At the same time, it is as much about World War II and holocaust. The Trick is genuinely fantastic. It is a humorous and light novel but carries meaning for life. Emanuel Bergmann shows we believe we can conquer the world when we are young. But we slowly become cynical as we grow older. Emanuel Bergmann is a formidable writer and he has meticulously weaved the story with two great characters. You will enjoy this brilliantly written debut novel no matter what your mood and age are.

Emanuel Bergmann was born in Germany and is a journalist and translator. He has been living in Los Angeles since 1990. The Trick is his debut novel and already an international bestseller.