Michael Chabon, the modern author most responsible for making Judaism seem really mysterious and exciting, is said to be developing a new HBO series about “a group of magicians and con men who use their skills at deception to battle Hitler and his forces during World War II,” tentatively titled Hobgoblin. As with his novels The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, the drama series would find Chabon once more combining genre tropes and Jewish history—in particular the story of Erik Jan Hanussen, an Austrian stage magician and self-proclaimed clairvoyant who hid his Jewish background while pretending to be a Danish aristocrat, and whose successful Berlin cabaret act led to rumored clandestine meetings with the occult-obsessed Hitler, where Hanussen allegedly taught him the secrets of mind control. (Hanussen figured prominently in Werner Herzog’s 2001 film Invincible.) Chabon’s tale certainly seems to have some basis in the Hanussen legend, but will be entirely fictional—except for the episode where one of the magicians heroically hides an Ashkenazi family in his hat. That actually happened.
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