Chess – Stefan Zweig

Chess big

This novella is 76 pages long. As with The Post Office Girl, which I read earlier in the year, it blew me away with it’s intensity. Stefan Zweig says much with few words. It is beautifully written and even in translation is effortless to read.

The world chess champion is on board a cruise ship from New York to Buenos Aires. The narrator learns of him and his story through a fellow passenger. His genius at chess does not extend to life in general. He is a man who shuns social contact and declines the request of the other passengers to play him.

The game eventually takes place, and another which the champ wins without battering an eyelid. If it wasn’t for the money, he would be long gone. Then, a voice in the crowd starts whispering instructions to the challengers, all of a sudden the champ’s interest in piqued. He looks up and realises he has a worthy challenger. Who is this stranger and how can he be skilled enough to match the champion?

It is this stranger’s story that takes the narrative forward with the intensity and suspense building.

Superficially this story is about chess. Beneath the surface it is an exploration of the history and psychology behind both characters. How they have evolved to be the men they are as they face each other across the chess board. Also the author’s history and what had happened to make him the man he was when he wrote the story.

I read this for the German reading and November novella challenges


6 responses to “Chess – Stefan Zweig

  1. Just saw that you’re reading The Bone People and can’t wait to see what you make of it. A friend loaned it to me as a “must read” but I found it really sticky and couldn’t get into it at all. Eventually it was consigned to the “give up” pile. I was stumbling through a busy patch at the time though and was wondering if I should give it a second chance.

    Kat x

  2. This novella was released in the US as Chess Story, Tracey, and I’m really looking forward to reading it after your fine review (note: the UK cover you show is quite a bit cooler looking than the one I just picked up from my library, though). Anyway, thanks for the suggestion–it will be my first Zweig!

  3. Richard – I’m sure you will enjoy it – I hope you do. I will look out for your thoughts. The cover is cool isn’t it – quite intense which is very appropriate!

  4. I held back from reading your review because I was about to pick up this book too. It is stunning, and I agree with every word you have written.

  5. Fleur – thank you. It is stunning isn’t it. So much said with so few words. I’m going to pop over and read your thoughts.

  6. Pingback: German Reading Challenge – Completed! « A Book Sanctuary

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