Chess by Stefan Zweig

“The usual last minute bustle of activity reigned on board the large passanger ship that was to leave New York for Buenos Aires at midnight. Visitors who had come up from the country to see their friends off were pushing and shoving, telegraph boys with caps tilted sidewayd on their heads ran through the saloons calling out names, luggage and flowers were being brought aboard, inquisitive children ran up and down the steps, while the band for the deck show played inperturbably on.”

Beautiful prose. Vivid pictures. Wonderful storytelling. They continue, from this opening, right through this remarkable novella.

One of those visitors points out another passenger to the friend he is seeing off. The man he points out is the world chess champion. A man who rose swiftly from obscurity to invincibility. An otherwise dull man with one quite extraordinary talent.

Word soon spreads and a group of chess lovers challenge the champion. He accepts – for a price – and crushes them quite mercilessly.

But then a soft voice from the crowd of observers offers suggested moves. Quite brilliant moves. The speaker is unknown and insists that he hasn’t played chess for more than twenty years.

Who is he? Where has he come from?

He tells his story, and it is quite remarkable.

Will he play the champion? And what will happen if he does?

Another remarkable story.

This is a little book but it says so much about a momentous period of history; about the human condition, the survival instinct, the need for a sense of purpose and so much more.

And it says it so, so well.

There is so much that I would like to say, but I really don’t want to give any more of the story away and it is difficult to find just the right words to expalin the wonder of Stefan Zweig’s words.

Read the book! Chess says so much, and, if you do read it, it will definitely stay with you.

11 responses

  1. I think you make this sound intriging,and your review makes me really want to read it, but I tried to read The Post Office Girl and failed abysmally!

  2. Great review of a great novella. I agree it says so much about the human condition. I think he proves with his writing that it doesn’t need to be an epic to have an incredible impact.

  3. Staci – I never knew I had such power! I’m looking forward to your thoughts one day.

    Kathy – I know pretty much nothing about chess – it’s very human story.

    Simon – You really must!

    Danielle – I’ll be tracking down Beware of pity as soon as I can.

    Jo – I’ve started The post Office Girl a few times but never finished. Lovely writing and a great idea but it wasn’t the right moment. I’ll definitely be giving it another go though.

    Tracy – Exactly!

    Jackie – I definitely think this is your sort of book.

  4. I’m always looking for good recommendation for my husband an this may be The One. He is a chess fanatic and I can see him loving this story. Thanks 🙂

    • Stacy – It’s a wonderful story, and I imagine a lover of chess might be able to find another level that I missed.

  5. Pingback: Chess – Stefan Zweig – Farm Lane Books Blog

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