• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,083,145 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

[197] Chess Story – Stefan Zweig

chess“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 chessboard . . .” [73]

On board a steamer from New York to Buenos Aires is Mirko Czentoic, the world chess champion who has been undefeated since the age of fifteen. That he has beaten one by one the world’s grandmasters, outstripping gallery of champions endowed with various superior intellect—philosophers, mathematicians, strategists, and people whose instinctive talents are imaginative and creative, is more than enough for him to put on an air of self-importance and conceit. But he is compromised by one limitation: he cannot play blind. His unexpected opponent is an Austrian lawyer with a surprising talent for the game, for he has created an internal projection of the chessboard and pieces—exactly what Mirko is not capable of. How this mysterious Dr. B, who handled Austrian imperial assets before the country fell, acquired his unmatched skill and at what terrible cost are the substance of a story.

Through the art of chess game, Chess Story is Zweig’s examination and final judgment of the Nazis. The terse novel does not contain an extra word. In order to present his characters as case histories of psychoanalysis, Zweig relies on a distancing technique that uses a friend of the main narrator to fill in indispensible details of Mirko’s orphan background and education. Then, in a first-person narrative, Dr. B tells the narrator instead the story of his terrible mastery in chess by the Nazi conquerors of Austria. Coiled with suspense, the book ponders the relationship between chess and madness. It mirrors the events of a war-torn world in which the author observed a brutal, ruthless peasant’s rise to dictatorial power in Germany. Czentovic (who was raised in a Yugoslavian village) is, in this way, a representation of Adolf Hitler while his chess opponents, aside from Dr. B, symbolize the fractured allies.

84 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

23 Responses

  1. Yes. So if I thought this sounded interesting the other day, it sounds even more intriguing now. Some books look okay. This one seems fascinating. “Ponders the relationship between chess and madness” I may not be the greatest chess player in the world, but even I can appreciate a line like that… I’m looking forward to reading Zweig – his background sounds like reason enough to read his books and the recommendations I’ve been getting are making this a must.

  2. I am also looking forward to reading Zweig. Might start with The Post-Office Girl, but this one sounds intriguing as well. Can you compare his writing to anyone you’ve read before? Or is it completely his own?

  3. Okay, adding it to the Dread Pile o’Reads.

    And in regard to this week’s musing, I mentally keep track of my list, but have a hard copy on my blog as well.

  4. This sounds really good – I’ll be interested to see how the switching between povs works. Adding to the list!

  5. He does all that in 84 pages??!! I’m intrigued. Adding him to the tbr pile tonight.

  6. I’d encourage those who enjoyed Zweig to read his moving memoirs, “The World of Yesterday”, written just shortly after the novella mentioned above and finished a short time before the joint suicide of Zweig and his wife.

  7. Biblibio:
    The story makes Dr. B the challenger more mad than the champion himself. But gathering from his self-conceit, he’s not sane to me either. Now I’m a roll of Zweig.

  8. claire:
    He uses a peculiar distancing technique to narrate the story. An unnamed narrator is telling the story, then he quickly shifts to a third-person narrative to tell us the background of the chess champion. His writing style I think is one of his own, although I have read books that have been just as psychological and suspenseful.

  9. Mish:
    This is can be read all in one sitting. Just a matter of couple hours.

  10. Jenny:
    The switch in narratives is quite subtle, but you will discern the difference in two men’s mental condition.

  11. CB James
    Yup, all that under 100 pages. It’s quite amazing.

  12. m. croche:
    Thanks for the recommendation. I thought Chess Story was his last published work. I just got The Post-Office Girl and will grab this memoir as well.

  13. For a lazy reader who can barely finish a book from cover to cover, this one would be up my alley. 🙂

  14. You know, if I hadn’t read The Post-Office Girl, I may not be interested in this book at first glance but now it’s definitely on my radar. I loved Post-office Girl so I’ll be looking for more of Zweig’s books.

  15. Ken:
    It’s a thriller that you’ll enjoy, especially you play chess.

  16. iliana:
    Now I cannot wait to read The Post Office Girl. Glad I got the last copy at the bookstore yesterday!

  17. Have I already said I want to read this one? I’m glad to see you got The Post Office Girl, too.

  18. Danielle:
    It’s quite read and very suspenseful. 🙂

  19. […] for me since I have neither read him nor any Austrian literature. If you haven’t read Chess Story, that would be a great place to […]

  20. […] for me since I have neither read him nor any Austrian literature. If you haven’t read Chess Story, that would be a great place to […]

  21. […] for New Author Discovered: The Clothes on Their Backs Linda Grant Chess Game Stefan Zweig Exiles in America Christopher Bram (total 4 read this year) The Elegance of the […]

  22. […] and shortest books? Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (960 pages) and Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (84 pages). These two books were read in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: