“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.