Jonah is joined by Rafael Benatar to discuss his translations of magic masters into other languages, the secrets to memorization, and cultural differences in magic performances.

Rafael is a prolific writer and has played a pivotal role in bridging the language gap between the magic community at large and legends such as Darwin Ortiz, Juan Tamariz, Ascanio, and Roberto Giobbi. His list of writing credits can fill a small library and he has translated a wide selection of books from Spanish, English, and German origins. 

Magic and Music

Hailing from Venezuela, Rafael was more into sports than magic. His father was the magic enthusiast and it was during a visit with his father to Magic Castle that showed Rafael that magic was an art-form he couldn’t ignore.

From classical guitar to the lute Rafael’s studies were in ancient instruments which took him to London and a magic shop where he self-taught himself the basics. His studies would take him across Europe until he settled into Switzerland and his first magic club with Roberto Giobbi. Armed with a discipline for studying and practicing, once he discovered the information one could find in magic books, nothing could stop him. 

Translating the Masters

Having studied music in London and Switzerland and fluent in Spanish and English, Rafael was uniquely suited to translate the nuances of magic practices in different countries. Developing his own style he is quick to point out that a direct translation is rarely a good idea, even when the translation is technical in nature, you sometimes have to rephrase and say it as you would say it in the translated words. Rafael also notes how different the styles are between different countries. For example, Americans are good at practicing but a Spanish magician will be good at a covering move.

Rafael has lots of stories to tell about the magicians he has translated from Arturo de Ascanio and his spin on the magic lecture to Roberto Giobbi’s theory of “The Critical Interval”, the precise moment when magic happens, and the “crazy genius” of Juan Tamariz. Rafael’s translations go well beyond simply translating the words. He needs to understand the context of every trick and confirm that they can be performed as they have been written, no matter how complex they may be.

Mastering Memorizing

Rafael applies many of the things he learned in music towards his magic. The most important is his system of practicing. Learning anything from beginning to end has its own issues which usually means you remember the beginning much more than the end, having practiced it more than the rest. But Rafael knows that memorizing a stack is something anyone can do, if you put in the work. Rather than learn from beginning to end Rafael recommends you learn the stack backwards in groups. And the secret trick? Practice memorizing right before you go to sleep! Your brain will keep working on the practice while you sleep and internalize the patterns. 


Endless Chain

Camilo and Mark Mitton

What do you like about modern magic? What do you not like?

People are not happy to just read the instructions and do the trick. Good magicians are always going a step further. Now people are changing things around and giving them good twists. This leads magic down an artistic past.

But there is an excess of information and not knowing what to do with it and how to handle it. Not everyone can read every book coming out and the most recent trick gets mixed up with the fundamentals. The fundamentals are always more important than the latest cool thing. 

Take home point

If you learn a technique from a sleight or a book, don’t be happy to just do what the book says. Be concerned about the cover. Try to put yourself on the side of the audience and try to imagine that you’re doing a more difficult move and cover it. 


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