Medjid Kan Rezvani, a native of Persia who now resides in Paris, is recognized as one of the most skillful conjurers in all Europe. His friend, Maurice Sardina, who was for many years Editor of Le Journal de la Prestidigitation and also rendered great aid to Dr. Dhotel in the preparation of his monumental work, La Prestidigitation sans Bagages, is author, illustrator, and publisher of this collection of Rezvani's sleights and tricks, which first made its appearance in French in 1946. The present (American) edition was translated and published by Dariel Fitzkee. It is a book of 89 pages, with 49 illustrations, bound in soft boards. The type is clear but small, and the titles of tricks are so poorly displayed that the pages look crowded. The printer did Mr. Fitzkee a disservice in making the outside page margins too narrow and the inside ones too wide; and also in wire-stapling the book, which is too thick to be bound together satisfactorily in this way.
An ideal translation would doubtless be one in which both the exact meaning of the author and the flavor of his writing were caught by the translator, and reproduced by him in the equivalent idioms of his language. Judged by this strict standard, Mr. Fitzkee's performance can scarcely be given a perfect score. For example, by translating literally such words as classique, geste, and intrigant, he arrives at the phases "this classic device," "the same gesture," and "intriguing moves," whereas the author seems clearly to have meant, respectively, "this standard device," "the same movement," and "puzzling moves." He states that the magician "mixes up the envelopes," when the French text says that he "has them mixed" - which is not the same thing at all. He speaks of "the forefinger, large and ring fingers," which could more simply be described as "the first, second, and third fingers." And we suggest, finally, that it would be hard to defend, as good English, such sentences as "I do not hesitate, however, enthusiastically advising studying it," or "Especially it is thus that the palm and the steal are done, stick in hand, which moreover is not a greater difficulty but, on the contrary, is a valuable assistance!" Luckily for the reader, Mr. Fitzkee's frequent departures from idiomatic English are not likely to lead to serious confusion; but we cannot help regretting that his literary style is so much less smooth and expressive than M. Sardina's.
Slightly less than half of the book is devoted to card magic.
There are 20 pages of card sleights and 16 of card tricks. The sleights, with few exceptions, are not sensationally different from those in The Expert at the Card Table and other good treatises on card conjuring, but in many instances M. Rezvani offers variations from the orthodox methods which will interest card fanciers. Two sleights which deserve special mention are Rezvani's exceedingly deceptive Riffle Pass and his Second Deal. The latter is especially well explained, with a series of drawings which illustrate clearly the vital part played by the left thumb in the execution of this sleight. Among the 16 card tricks (as contrasted with sleights) are two new ways to conclude The Cards Up the Sleeve; the vanish of a thought-of card from the pack and its reappearance in the performer's coat-pocket; The Cards Identified by Touch, a feat in "cardreading" that is accomplished by using a very ingenious little fake; an effective variation of The Card in the Wallet; The Six-Card Repeat, which employs the "rough-and-smooth" principle; and The Card in the Bag, a small edition of the well-known stage illusion entitled The Sack Escape.
One of Rezvani's outstanding feats is The Tomato Trick, to which 15 pages of text and illustrations are allotted. In addition to the material about this trick that is included in the French edition of this book, Mr. Fitzkee reprints a half-dozen pages of explanation which M. Sardina had previously contributed to Le Journal de la Prestidigitation. The trick is a variation of the venerable Cups and Balls, with bowls substituted for the usual cups and "tomatoes" (cloth or sponge-rubber imitations of the genuine article) in place of the customary "muscades" or balls; and it is usually performed while the magician is in a squatting or kneeling position partially surrounded by the spectators. The routine worked out by M. Rezvani, and described here in great detail by M. Sardina, is the one which won for Rezvani the title "King of Tomatoes," by which he is known in Europe.
In yet another form of The Cups and Balls, which in this case is called The Persian Cups, M. Rezvani follows a somewhat different routine, and even employs a shell that matches the balls and is used in much the same way as the shell in The Multiplying Billiard Balls. The Ivory Marbles, consisting of the disappearance and reappearance of five small ivory balls; the transformation of eight thimbles into a single thimble of giant size; The Portrait of Grandmother, a very good version of The Card Frame; a clever, cloth-tube Ball Holder; The Cord through the Sheet of Glass; and an odd effect called The Sticks of Buddha are included among the "miscellaneous" tricks. The book concludes with a half-dozen mental feats, three of which are dictionary tricks, two are tests in billet reading, and one (Rezvani's Curtain Slate) is the explanation of a clever piece of apparatus which would lend itself to the performance of many types of "mindreading" demonstrations.
When we read this book in the French edition, shortly after its publication in 1946, we were quite favorably impressed with a number of the items. But not until we had seen Rezvani perform a dozen or so of his tricks did we fully appreciate the rare excellence of his methods. The Riffle Pass (which could more accurately be termed The Ruffle Pass), the Second Deal, The Tomato Trick, and The lvory Marbles - to cite but a few examples - are marvelously deceptive pieces of legerdemain in Mr. Rezvani's hands; and his non-manipulative feats, such as The Cards Identified by Touch and his fine dictionary tests, are gems of conjuring subtlety. If The Magic of Rezvani gets as wide a reading as it deserves, the English-speaking magic world will not only be grateful to Mr. Fitzkee for translating it, but will doubtless demand the early translation of M. Sardina's second and larger book on the work of Rezvani, which has been announced for publication in Paris in the spring of 1949.