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Chess Story (1942)

by Stefan Zweig

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,443993,008 (4.13)322
The more a man restricts himself the closer he is, conversely, to infinity' On a cruiseship bound for Buenos Aires in 1941, a group of eager passengers challenge the world chess champion to a match. He accepts. He will beat anyone, he says. At first, the challenger crumbles before the mind of the master. But then, a soft-spoken voice from the crowd begins to whisper nervous suggestions. Perfect moves, brilliant predictions. The speaker has not played a game for more than twenty years, he says. He is wholly unknown. But somehow, he is also entirely formidable. Stefan Zweig's acclaimed novella Chessis a disturbing, intensely dramatic depiction of the cost of obsession, set in a world of Mitteleuropean civilization traumatised by tyranny.… (more)
Recently added byRobertHay, ByronDB, private library, Estragon1958, ethanpeck
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» See also 322 mentions

English (73)  French (7)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (5)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  Danish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Arabic (1)  All languages (99)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Nice - short - beautiful as everything from Stefan Zweig. Spend an afternoon and just read it before you spend to much time reading about it! ( )
  iffland | Mar 19, 2022 |
reread ( )
  untermond | Jan 29, 2022 |
More than a short story, almost novella. Psychological study of two chess adversaries, each eccentric in his own way. It's got the impact of a thriller. ( )
  brianstagner | Nov 24, 2021 |
Der Ich-Erzähler dieses Buches berichtet von einer Schiffsreise von New York nach Buinos Aires, auf der er sich befindet, u. a. zusammen mit einigen ihm bekannten Personen, sowie dem amtierenden Schachweltmeister, einem abweisenden, arroganten Herrn.

Irgendwann kommen einige der Reisenden zusammen, um gemeinsam ihre Schachfähigkeiten gegen den Weltmeister zu testen. Nach einer Weile gesellt sich ein mysteriöser Passagier hinzu, und sieht dem Spiel zu. Es handelt sich um Herrn Dr. B. Dieser gibt unseren Hobbyspielern so wertvolle Tipps, dass sie bald gegen den Weltmeister zumindest ein überraschendes Remis erzielen. Doch wer ist dieser Dr. B.?

Der Ich-Erzähler kommt bald mit ihm ins Gespräch und Dr. B. erzählt von seiner Zeit in Nazi-Gefangenschaft, während derer er sich selbst das Schachspielen beigebracht hat, um nicht dem Wahnsinn in Isolationshaft zu verfallen. Mit einem heimlich entwendeten Buch, selbstgebastelten Figuren und einer karierten Decke. Es ist diese Geschichte des Dr. B., die das eigentliche ergreifende Herzstück dieses Buches ist. Wie Dr. B. unter schlimmen Umständen zu einem Schachgenie wurde, welches niemals zuvor gegen eine zweite Person gespielt hat, und was im weiteren Verlauf auf dem Schiff passiert... das ist eine sehr große Leseempfehlung! Zu Recht ein Klassiker und eines von Stefan Zweigs bekanntesten Werken.

Ich beziehe mich auf die Hörbuch-Fassung, brilliant gelesen von Hans Jürgen Stockerl. ( )
  Heidi64 | Jul 18, 2021 |
Written just before he and his wife committed suicide, in exile in Brazil, this book is really an allegory of S.Z.'s predicament.
It concerns the oppression of a sensitive spirit, to the point of madness, by skilled Gestapo oppressors.
It then becomes a game of chess between this same sensitive spirit who taught himself during his long solitary confinement, and a brilliant but brutish opponent who's only skill is chess.
The basic story is enthralling, the message is why S.Z. killed himself. ( )
  scunliffe | Jul 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (144 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zweig, Stefanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gay, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montis, SilviaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pein-Schmidt, UschiContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Radvan, FlorianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rogal, StefanContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rotenberg, JoelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steiner, AnneEditorsecondary 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.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The more a man restricts himself the closer he is, conversely, to infinity' On a cruiseship bound for Buenos Aires in 1941, a group of eager passengers challenge the world chess champion to a match. He accepts. He will beat anyone, he says. At first, the challenger crumbles before the mind of the master. But then, a soft-spoken voice from the crowd begins to whisper nervous suggestions. Perfect moves, brilliant predictions. The speaker has not played a game for more than twenty years, he says. He is wholly unknown. But somehow, he is also entirely formidable. Stefan Zweig's acclaimed novella Chessis a disturbing, intensely dramatic depiction of the cost of obsession, set in a world of Mitteleuropean civilization traumatised by tyranny.

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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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