Thursday, April 06, 2006

BOOKS: Chess by Stefan Zweig

Recently discovered Stefan Zweig's Chess: A Novella. Read it in one sitting.

The story takes place on a cruise-ship, where introduces a chess prodigy is challenged by a prideful Scotsman, McConnor. The chess prodigy a brutish, thick-browed imbecile with no intellectual faculty whatever - except in chess.

During a chess match, as McConnor was slowly losing to the chess prodigy, a mysterious stranger steps up to offer advice. His predictions and steps are all brilliant, and the game ends in a draw.

To everyone's surprise, the mysterious stranger claims to have not touched a chess set for twenty-five years. Yet he is obviously a genius.

How this stranger come to be the chess genius that he is lies at the heart of this tale.

About Zweig:
Austrian biographer, essayist, short story writer, and cosmopolitan, who advocated the idea of an united Europe under one government. Zweig achieved fame with his vivid and psychoanalytically-oriented biographies of historical characters. Among his best-known works is BAUMEISTER DER WELT (1936, translated as Master Builders), a collection of his biographical studies. Zweig was a prolific writer. In the 1930s he was one of the most widely translated authors in the world. His extensive travels led him to India, Africa, North and Central America, and Russia. Among his friends were Maksim Gorky, Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin, and Arturo Toscanini.

Full write-up.

Pushkin Press is currently in the progress of making Zweig more available to the English reading market. That's a good thing. He's relatively unknown and unread by English readers - in spite of his cult status among the German readers.

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