Life in a Flash
I was born in Basle, Switzerland, on the 1st of May 1959, from Italian parents who emigrated from Piedmont. Although I started in High School with mathematics and natural sciences, I soon found out that my talents were in languages, so went to the University of Basel to study literature and linguistics.
This was an unintentional smart move, because it ultimately made me fluent in six languages, which turned out to be a great asset when in 1988, after winning FISM for the first time (1991 would be the second time), I turned professional. At that time there were only two or three people in Switzerland doing magic professionally; now, almost 30 years later, there are dozens, and several tell me that I inspired them to take that step. In 1990 the MRS (Magischer Ring der Schweiz) held their first national competition, and as the winner of all categories I was the very first to received their Grand Prix. This reminds me of a comment my friend Pit Hartling made after one of my lectures: “You speak like an old man, without being one.”
Author and Lecturer
In the announcement to his Genii Bash Convention in 2012 Richard Kaufman wrote: “Roberto has become one of the most sought-out voices on magic and his lectures have grown near legendary.” This certainly pleased me, because studying the underpinnings of magic, treating it as an academic discipline besides as an art, has always captured my fancy.
I’ve started giving lectures at an early age, with much innocence and naiveté, but always with lots of passion and enthusiasm. A recent count revealed that I’ve given more than fifty completely different lectures in the past forty years, mostly on specific topics. This won’t even include the many presentations I’ve given on the occasion of the Jornadas Cartomagicas de El Escorial, the yearly get-together of the Escuela Magica de Madrid. The latter was founded by Juan Tamariz, together with Ascanio, in Madrid in 1971, inspired by André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto and to this day remains magic’s only Think Tank. I’ve been one of only forty members since ca. 1980 and am glad I could contribute over decades to their superb magazine La Circular.
In the meantime I’ve written essays and columns for over fifty magic magazines, of which fourteen consecutive years for Genii.
Most readers will probably know me for my five volumes of Card College, which have quite unintentionally become the most widely translated magic books in history. However, my heart is also attached to the several other books, which carry in them a part of myself. Meanwhile I face the reality of having over 80 publications to my credit, including their translation into eight languages; this comprises a few electronic works, such as E-books and DVDs, with quite a few more in preparation.
Although as of today I wish I could make a living from writing, lecturing and coaching, But, alas, not even being one of the few best-selling authors in magic allows this. I still enjoy performing very much, due to my linguistic talents mostly for an international clientele, and as such have visited over 50 countries around the globe. I’m glad I’ve always made it a point that my clients pay one or two extra nights, so I could see the place, visit with local magicians and enjoy a good meal in town, gastronomy being one of my interests.
Part of my life was captured in “Il giardino dei giochi segreti”, a 50-minutes documentary by Swiss TV, and you can find it on the Internet. As part of my work for laypeople I also give interdisciplinary talks and workshops for industry managers on creativity, communication, and presentation. However, I feel particularly honored that magicians from China, the New World and all over Europe are now coming to seek out my advice and taking coaching lessons.
Meaning of Magic
Awards to me have always had a subordinate importance, but they have told me that I’m on the right track, and they’ve been a true encouragement to pursue a path, which requires a lot of work and dedication, without really being financially rewarding. In this sense, I was pleased when in 2012 the Academy of Magical Arts in Los Angeles gave me their Literary Fellowship, along with a lifetime membership of their uniquely wonderful Magic Castle, and in 2014 the prestigious Magic Circle of London bestowed upon me their John Nevil Maskelyne Award for Literature. Recently, in 2015, at the FISM World Congress of Magic in Rimini, they gave me their lifetime achievement award for “Theory & Philosophy”.
Dai Vernon used to say that in order to become good at anything, you have to devote your life to it. When at age fourteen I pulled that magic book from the public library’s shelf, and immediately fell in love with magic, I certainly didn’t realize that this was the door to my future. I have indeed dedicated my life to magic, without ever planning to become what I have become, but maybe because of this, things have turned out fine.
1987 Writer of the Year of the Magischer Zirkel von Deutschland
1988 Vice World Champion Card Magic at FISM (The Hague)
1990 Grand Prix at the Swiss Championships of Magic
1991 Vice World Champion Card Magic at FISM (Lausanne)
2012 Literary Fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts
2014 John Nevil Maskelyne Award for Literature from the Magic Circle of London
2015 FISM Lifetime Achievement Award “Theory & Philosophy” (Rimini)
Grosse Kartenschule, Vol. 1 (1992)
Grosse Kartenschule, Vol. 2 (1992)
Grosse Kartenschule, Vol. 3 (1994)
Grosse Kartenschule, Vol. 4 (1994)
Grosse Kartenschule, Vol. 5 (2003)
Card College, Vol. 1 (1995)
Card College, Vol. 2 (1996)
Card College, Vol. 3 (1998)
Card College, Vol. 4 (2000)
Card College, Vol. 5 (2003)
Cours de cartomagie moderne, Vol. 1 (1994)
Cours de cartomagie moderne, Vol. 2 (1996)
Cours de cartomagie moderne, Vol. 3 (2005)
Card College Light (2006)
Card College Lighter (2008)
Card College Lightest (2010)
Secret Agenda (2010)
Introduction to Card Magic (2012)
The Art of Switching Decks (2013)
2004 documentary of Swiss television “Il giardino dei giochi segreti” about Giobbi