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Chess Story (1943)

by Stefan Zweig

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,8101123,075 (4.13)1 / 346
"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.". "In 1938, Nazism forced Zweig into exile. Chess Story, sometimes known as The Royal Game, was the last thing he wrote before he and his wife committed suicide. This novella is a final effort to take the human measure of the inhuman. On a great ocean liner, the world champion of chess confronts a lawyer with a surprising talent for the game in a tense contest of wit and will. How the lawyer acquired his skill and at what terrible cost are the substance of a story, in which, at the same time, quietly but unmistakably, the death knell of the Enlightenment is sounded."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
  1. 30
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    The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig (rvdm61)
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» See also 346 mentions

English (83)  Spanish (7)  French (7)  Dutch (4)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  Catalan (2)  German (1)  Arabic (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Short but powerful. Absolutely loved it. Once again,Stefan Zweig doesn't disappoint ( )
  enlasnubess | Oct 2, 2023 |
This novella, also found under the title [Chess Story] is classic Zweig, a story within a story, in which two men, a chess savant of peasant origins and an educated man with a difficult past, face off across the chess board. Each is in some way trapped within his mental abilities and traumas, one as an orphan with an unusual gift, the other as a refugee from Nazi torture whose mechanisms of survival left their own damage. Highly recommended.

This was Zweig's last book before he and his wife took their own lives in 1942, in despair over exile and its causes. ( )
  ffortsa | Aug 2, 2023 |
A long short story. Pretty good. Hope to read more by this guy. In the NYRB series. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
3.5 rounded up to 4. ( )
  Kimberlyhi | Apr 15, 2023 |
"Anyone who has suffered from a mania remains at risk forever, and with chess sickness (even if cured) it would be better not to go near a chess board."

World chess champion Mirko Czentovic has "the vacant look of a sheep at pasture," but as a monomaniac with no peer at chess, he considers himself the most important person in the world. After all, "isn't it damn easy to think you're a great man if you aren't troubled by the slightest notion that a Rembrandt, Beethoven, Dante, or Napoleon ever existed?"

Czentovic is embarking on a voyage from New York to Buenos Aires to engage in some chess games. One of his fellow passengers is McConnor, a wealthy Scottish engineer, a "self-obsessed big wheel." When McConnor learns that a chess champion is on board, he wants to play, and Czentovic agrees to play McConnor for $250 per game. Our narrator knows that "regardless of the stakes, this fanatically proud man would go on playing Czentovic until he won at least once, even if it cost him his entire fortune."

During the game a third man we know only as Dr. B appears, pale and strange, and very knowledgeable about chess. The heart of the book relates the story of the circumstances under which Dr. B became such an expert in chess.

I'm not a chess player, but there was nothing too technical about chess in this book. Nevertheless, despite the excellent quality of the writing, it was not a book that grabbed me and compelled me to keep reading, which was disappointing since I so loved The Post Office Girl. This is the only book by Zweig in which he directly confronts Nazism (in response to which he and his wife committed suicide in 1942).

3 stars

First line: "On the great passenger liner due to depart New York for Buenos Aires at midnight, there was the usual last minute bustle and commotion."

Last line: "For an amateur, this gentleman is really extraordinarily talented." ( )
3 vote arubabookwoman | Feb 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (144 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zweig, StefanAuthorprimary 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
Vieweg, ChristophIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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345835901X 2013 hardcover German insel taschenbuch 4201
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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.". "In 1938, Nazism forced Zweig into exile. Chess Story, sometimes known as The Royal Game, was the last thing he wrote before he and his wife committed suicide. This novella is a final effort to take the human measure of the inhuman. On a great ocean liner, the world champion of chess confronts a lawyer with a surprising talent for the game in a tense contest of wit and will. How the lawyer acquired his skill and at what terrible cost are the substance of a story, in which, at the same time, quietly but unmistakably, the death knell of the Enlightenment is sounded."--BOOK JACKET.

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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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