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Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics)…

Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics) (original 1942; edition 2005)

by Stefan Zweig, Joel Rotenberg (Translator), Peter Gay (Introduction)

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2,125533,082 (4.12)271
Title:Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:Stefan Zweig
Other authors:Joel Rotenberg (Translator), Peter Gay (Introduction)
Info:NYRB Classics (2005), Paperback, 104 pages
Collections:Your library, 2012 Read
Tags:German literature, Austrian literature, Austria, Germany, chess, WWII

Work details

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (Author) (1942)

  1. 30
    The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov (Arvoitus)
    Arvoitus: Because it's another work about chess and madness. The very difference is the status of the game player, chess is his life. You can also look at this novel as a political one.
  2. 30
    The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata (hippietrail)
  3. 10
    The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (fuzzy_patters)
  4. 00
    The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig (rvdm61)
  5. 00
    The King of Chess by Ah Cheng (sriq)
  6. 00
    Detective Story by Imre Kertesz (caitlinlizzy)

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» See also 271 mentions

English (36)  Dutch (5)  French (5)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
This is a short novella about two chess masters who meet on a boat and play each other. One is the world champion of chess and has come from an obscure upbringing. It was discovered in his teenage years that though he had seemingly no other talents or intellectual capacity, he was a master at chess. The other player learned chess in a cell where he was being held and interrogated by the Nazis. He is unknown to the chess world.

The comparison between these two men and their road to chess is interesting and thoughtfully written. I read this book in an hour and want to read more. There were many layers to the story and writing that keep it very interesting and make you keep pondering the story after finishing. I'm intrigued by Stefan Zweig. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Apr 29, 2015 |
I read this and Kawabata's The Master of Go back-to-back, and was very happy that I did. Both deal with the psychological effects of obsessing over complex boardgames, and explore a central character whose life has been consumed by such obsession. Despite the fact that Chess Story takes a fictional approach, while Kawabata's book is based on an actual person, there were many parallels between the two works, and each highlighted aspects of the other that otherwise I might have missed. While both books on their own are probably only worth three stars, the resonance created by reading them one after the other magnified my enjoyment so much that I'm giving both four stars. ( )
1 vote BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
The entire action of this brief, taut novella takes place over the course of a few days a cruise ship from New York to Buenos Aires. Ultimately, it portrays the battle of two very different types of character and genius facing off against each other in a game of chess.

The first to be introduced is a wily Slavonian peasant who was discovered as an instant and natural chess genius when he completed a game left by a priest despite never having been taught anything. He is mostly focused on playing chess for money and, secondarily, glory and despite being defeating all of the world's champions cannot play blind chess--he needs to see the actual pieces.

At first he is playing against a collections of passengers from the ship, when a mysterious man comes along who helps them fight to a draw. The mystery is deepened when the man states that he has not played chess for twenty years and even then was a mediocre player. Eventually his story comes out, but suffice it to say that it entails becoming increasingly focused on visualizing chess games without the help of a board or pieces--a deeply cerebral approach that is the opposite of the more crude and natural style of the Slavonian player.

Eventually the two of them meet for a solo match and the book depicts a fascinating and respectful clash between these two titans.

An underappreciated modern classic. ( )
1 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
a fast moving novella about a chess match between 2 unlikely masters.

One is an idiot savant who has an inate ability to learn chess while being almost illiterate about all else. He becomes the world champion and soon develops an air of supremacy and conceit.

All is good for him until he takes a fateful ship cruise on its way to Buenos Aires. Aboard the ship is another chess master who learned the game while imprisoned in solitary confinement and all he had to maintain his sanity was a chess manual he memorized and the games within played out in his mind with no chess board nor peices.

the ensuing match betwenn these two is compelling, narrated quickly with good pace and characterization. this is the 1st Zweig piece i have read and i am sure to look at his other stories. ( )
  berthirsch | May 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (55 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zweig, StefanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Unseld, SiegfriedAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ursula MonsenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
On the great passenger steamer, due to depart New York for Buenos Aires at midnight, there was the usual last-minute bustle and commotion.
All my life I have been passionately interested in monomaniacs of any kind, people carried away by a single idea. The more one limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite; these people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world.
But is it not already an insult to call chess anything so narrow as a game? Is it not also a science, an art, hovering between these categories like Muhammad's coffin between heaven and earth, a unique yoking of opposites, ancient and yet eternally new, mechanically constituted an yet an activity of the imagination alone, limited to a fixed geometric area but unlimited in its permutations, constantly evolving and yet sterile, a cogitation producing nothing, a mathematics calculating nothing, an art without an artwork, an architecture without substance and yet demonstrably more durable in its essence and actual form than all books and works, the only game that belongs to all peoples and all eras, while no one knows what god put it on earth to deaden boredom, sharpen the mind, and fortify the spirit?
Yet how difficult, how impossible it is to imagine the life of an intellectually active person who reduces the world to a shuttle between black and white, who seeks fulfillment in a mere to-and-fro, forward-and-back or thirty-two pieces, someone for whom a new opening that allows the knight to be advanced instead of the pawn is in itself a great accomplishment and a meager little piece of immortality in a corner of a chess book - someone, someone with a brain in his head, who, without going mad continues over and over for ten, twenty, thirty, forty years to devote all the force of his thought to the ridiculous end of cornering a wooden king on a wooden board!
But even thoughts, insubstantial as they seem, need a footing, or they begin to spin, to run in frenzied circles; they can't bear nothingness either.
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Book description
From the publisher-
Chess Story, also known as The Royal Game, is the Austrian master Stefan Zweig's final achievement, completed in Brazilian exile and sent off to his American publisher only days before his suicide in 1942. It is the only story in which Zweig looks at Nazism, and he does so with characteristic emphasis on the psychological.

Travelers by ship from New York to Buenos Aires find that on board with them is the world champion of chess, an arrogant and unfriendly man. They come together to try their skills against him and are soundly defeated. Then a mysterious passenger steps forward to advise them and their fortunes change. How he came to possess his extraordinary grasp of the game of chess and at what cost lie at the heart of Zweig's story.

This new translation of Chess Story brings out the work's unusual mixture of high suspense and poignant reflection.
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"The art of the great Austian writer Stefan Zweig was a difficult balancing act. Zweig's major subject was human limitation, above all the ways in which the best of intentions can lead people into the murkiest of emotional and moral cul-de-sacs. And yet Zweig also hoped to illumine those dark places of the heart and mind, to show that it is not, finally, impossible to attain a true perspective on our limitations, even to care for each other. Zweig, much like his contemporary E.M. Forster, was liberal and humanist to the core, gambling on human goodness against the specters of oppression and despair."… (more)

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