Christian Fechner has Died

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Postby Pat_CLIFDEN77 » 11/26/08 08:33 AM

Christian FECHNER is dead today (64 years old)! He was known in France as a movie producer and in the magic community as a FISM winner and a ROBERT-HOUDIN specialist (he wrote a lot of book on J.E. R-H).

... too sad !

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/26/08 11:34 AM

I've had this confirmed by several people in France. Fechner had a very serious bout with cancer several years ago, and it was beaten into remission. He thought he'd licked it, but had been ill all summer.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 11/26/08 12:13 PM

I saw the news stories on the net, but I couldn't figute out how to translate them.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/26/08 12:23 PM

Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 11/26/08 12:44 PM

Did that and Babble Fish too. As they say, it loses something in the translation. You can understand most of it, but about 10-15% of it is off.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 11/26/08 01:08 PM

Maybe Phillipe will post a translation for us soon.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 11/26/08 01:10 PM

Very sad. His works on Robert-Houdin are not only scholarly, but works of art.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/26/08 01:29 PM

Did anyone here know the guy - care to make comment about the person we've lost?
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Postby Joe Pecore » 11/26/08 02:43 PM

He was on cover of Genii November 2002 (Vol. 65, No. 11). I'm trying to find mine to read it.
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Postby Todd Karr » 11/26/08 03:44 PM

Christian was an amazing man. He produced and directed major movies (notably "Camille Claudel") in France, and in the magic world brought us some of the most inventive magic ever seen. He won the FISM prize for Invention with an act that has yet to be approached in its use of technology in the service of wonder.

Fechner did not throw his money around but used it in the service of fine art. His act was not a rich man's indulgence but a serious exploration of advanced electronics and mechanics used for amazing effects. He published some of the most elegant and elaborate magic books in our art's history (especially his Soirees Fantastiques). As a historian, he was the real deal, as a glance at his Magic of Robert-Houdin books and French conjuring bibliography will show.

The preservation of Robert-Houdin and his story will stand as one of Christian's greatest legacies. He gathered the world's largest collection of Robert-Houdin props and memorabilia, displayed it in his own mini-museum, convinced the family to grant him access to the master's manuscripts and papers, and distilled it into some of the best pages ever written on magic history.

I had the good fortune to work on the translation and editing of his Robert-Houdin series, first his two-volume biography, then the second set on the magic effects of Robert-Houdin.

When I was staying at Kevin James' house years ago, Gaetan Bloom showed me the proofs of the English edition of Fechner's Robert-Houdin biography. I immediately saw trouble. Christian had hired a French non-magician to translate, and inaccuracies abounded. I contacted Fechner to offer my services as editor and re-translator. The result was necessarily a bit awkward since I was repairing an already-written translation, but what an adventure and honor it was.

To seal our contract, I met with Fechner in Paris for a day. He and his driver met me at the airport and his mouth dropped open. He'd been impressed by my edition of The Annals of Conjuring but didn't expect me to be a guy in his thirties with long hair. In the back of his Rolls and then at lunch, we discussed the possibilities of my editing and eventually releasing his English edition through The Miracle Factory.

He told me he was astonished by my rendition of The Annals, which I'd created with Eddie Dawes and Bob Read. It's just totally perfect, he said. I'd only started about a year before in the publishing world and his kind words meant a lot to me.

We visited his headquarters in Boulogne, where he had his collection on display. He showed me the proofs of the biography and the planned subsequent set, then took me to a display on Georges Melies in Paris, giving me a personal guided tour of another of his heroes, also a multitalented movie director/inventive magician.

In the afternoon, we stopped to see the filming of one of his movies. As soon as we stepped onto the outdoor set, assistants brought us two folding chairs and offered us coffee. The movie was eventually a huge hit, and Christian later joked that I should be the good luck charm on all his movies.

I was fairly in awe of Christian and felt extremely lucky to work with him. I am sorry that he never published the English translation I did of his second Robert-Houdin set, not for me but for its information, which would have seriously influenced the wider, non-Francophone magic world's understanding of its own art. This work examines all of Robert-Houdin's ingenious effects, techniques, and stage riggings, and establishes him as one of the prime architects of much of what is now seen onstage in magic shows.

To top off the value of his work, Christian's book also thoroughly researched, explained, and exposed Houdini's pathetic attacks on Robert-Houdin. But for whatever reason, Fechner decided not to release the English version of this second set. As I have said to many inquiring about this lost potential classic, "Fechner works in mysterious ways."

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 11/26/08 05:42 PM

Todd,

Thank you very much for sharing that.

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Postby hugmagic » 11/26/08 08:47 PM

Yes, thank you. It was an insight in to a man that few ever had the chance to interact with as you did.

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Postby Pete Biro » 11/26/08 10:28 PM

Hard to top Todd's experience with Christian. I was very lucky t be considered one of his friends. We first met in the South of France and hit it off immediately. I watched his performance when he won the FISM prize. It was one of the most creative acts I had ever seen.

The kind of man he was?

Norm Nielsen was at home. The door bell rang. A delivery man handed Norm a small package marked "open first." The delivery man said, "I have a large crate, where do you want it?"

Norm opened the small package and in it was a video tape. On the tape, which was shot in Fechner's living room, Fechner, with his ever-present cigar, explined to Norm that he had created a new illusion and he would demonstrate it. Fechner walked over to a grand piano, sat down and as the music played the piano levitated and floated around the room. It was beautiful.

At the finish, on the tape, Fechner said, "Norman, the piano is for you... it's in the big box."

On our visit to France, my first wife became quite sick, and Fechner and his wife Solange came to our rescue, he helped to get us out of France and to England, where the medical care for her problem would be better (and literally at no cost).

I am forever indebted to his kindness and care. Every one of his books published always showed up at my doorstep, Fedex, and they are all THE TREASURES of my collection.

He will be sadly missed... :(
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Postby Pepka » 11/27/08 01:21 AM

What a great story Pete. I know very little of Christian, and never got to meet him. It's so wonderful to hear great stories from friends like this when someone passes.
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Postby Philippe Billot » 11/27/08 04:14 AM

Joe Pecore wrote:Maybe Phillipe will post a translation for us soon.


We are going to do something about Fechner in our site Artefake but it's not yet ready.
If I have time, i'll make a translation for Genii Forum.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 11/27/08 10:30 AM

Alan Watson mentioned this morning that Christian Fechner owned 5000 magic books, 2000 in French. Todd Karr, get to work!

I have often wondered how many magic books we English readers are missing out on in French, German, Italian, Japanese, etc. Perhaps, Richard, this would be a good project for one of your multi-lingual contributors: The Top 25 Magic Books You've Never Even Heard Of.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 11/27/08 11:38 AM

Which has to be a good incentive to learn a new language :)

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/27/08 12:45 PM

Who among you can claim to have read and studied all the great books that are already in the English language? Few of you and I include myself. I have read them, but not studied all of them.

Why dream about books to which you have no access when there are shelves of books which you can pick up and read now.

You want to read a great book translated from another language? Go find Magic Without Apparatus by Gaultier, which has been in English since the 1940s. One of the best books ever written in our field and it has an amazing amount of superb material.

Regarding what Alan Watson wrote, many of the French books are translations of books from other languages, not texts written originally in French. And even if they were all original French texts, since most of what is published in English is crap, the French books are no different (nor are they different in any other language).

All of that aside, Mr. Bryant does have a point in that there are many good books in other languages that will never be translated into English, just as there are many great English books that will never be translated into those languages. The problem (and I have encountered this personally, and repeatedly) is that finding qualified translators, who know both languages fluently and also know magic, is extremely difficult. Also, it's time consuming and expensive to publish books, and the markets (that is, the number of books it is possible to sell) are much smaller in other countries.
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Postby John Houdi » 11/28/08 08:02 AM

Here's a clip from his fantastic FISM act.
Enjoy!

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x67m3b ... e-magi_fun
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Postby Philippe Billot » 12/03/08 12:38 PM

For those who can understand french, here is a link to a movie by Jean-Luc Muller for a tribute to Christian Fechner.

http://www.magie-ffap.com/spip.php?article186
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Postby Ruben Padilla » 12/12/08 07:23 PM

Any chance of the the 2nd series of Houdin books to be published posthumously?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/12/08 08:31 PM

I suppose anything is possible. The translation is already done. Someone in the family would have to give approval, and someone else would have to take on the task, which is still quite large. Even though the layout is already done and the English text really just needs to be substituted, it would be an extremely expensive set of books to produce.
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