November 27, 2013
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (Review)
Author: Stefan Zweig
First published: 1941
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Writing this review is gonna be difficult, so where do I start? Let's try to begin with the obvious, superficial plot. The author is on a ship, and he learns that the world chess champion Czentovic is travelling too. The champion has a very bad temper, but the author and his wealthy acquaintance manage to coax him into a play against all the enthusiasts on board. Needless to say, he wins game after game, unless a mysterious adviser appears in the group of desperate amateurs, who helps them to find a way from a tough situation and draw the game. Everybody is intrigued and ask him to play against Czentovic again. Reluctantly, he agrees, but he seems to be nervous about it, and soon the author hears his full story and learns how he has mastered chess so well.
That's pretty all that can be said about the plot of this short novella, but then it goes deeper into the remembrances of that mysterious player, and there are all the reflections about Nazi occupation, mental anguish, psychological conflicts and many more. This really cannot be described in a short review, so my only advise for you is to read it. These two hours of your reading life will not be spent in vain.
Interesting trivia: it's the last work of Zweig, he wrote it just before committing suicide in his residence in Brasil. So it's pretty desperate and reflects his view of the state of humankind in Europe.
In my book:
Dark and disturbing, but irresistibly fascinating.