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Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics)

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Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics) Cover

ISBN13: 9781590171691
ISBN10: 1590171691
Condition:
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Chess Story, also known as The Royal Game, is the Austrian master Stefan Zweig's final achievement, completed in Brazilian exile and sent off to his American publisher only days before his suicide in 1942. It is the only story in which Zweig looks at Nazism, and he does so with characteristic emphasis on the psychological.

Travelers by ship from New York to Buenos Aires find that on board with them is the world champion of chess, an arrogant and unfriendly man. They come together to try their skills against him and are soundly defeated. Then a mysterious passenger steps forward to advise them and their fortunes change. How he came to possess his extraordinary grasp of the game of chess and at what cost lie at the heart of Zweig's story.

This new translation of Chess Story brings out the work's unusual mixture of high suspense and poignant reflection.

Review:

"[Zweig is a] writer who understands perfectly the life he is describing, and who has great analytic gifts....He has achieved the very considerable feat of inventing, in his description of the game of chess, a metaphor for the terribly grim game he is playing with his Nazi tormentors...the case history here is no longer that of individuals; it is the case history of Europe." Stephen Spender, The New York Review of Books

Review:

"Always [Zweig] remains essentially the same, revealing in all...mediums his subtlety of style, his profound psychological knowledge and his inherent humaneness." Barthold Fles, The New Republic

Review:

"Zweig possesses a dogged psychological curiosity, a brutal frankness, a supreme impartiality...[a] concentration of talents." Herbert Gorman, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"His writing reveals his sympathy for fellow human beings." Ruth Franklin, London Review of Books

About the Author

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), novelist, biographer, poet, and translator, was born in Vienna into a wealthy Austrian Jewish family. During the 1930s, he was one of the best-selling writers in Europe, and was among the most translated German-language writers before the Second World War. With the rise of Nazism, he moved from Salzburg to London (taking British citizenship), to New York, and finally to Brazil, where he committed suicide with his wife. New York Review Books has published Zweig’s novels The Post-Office Girl and Beware of Pity as well as the novella Chess Story.

Peter Gay is Director of the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He wrote Schnitzler’s Century: The Making of Middle-Class Culture, 1815–1914.

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also_present, May 12, 2015 (view all comments by also_present)
How many times have we gone from a film in search of a book? This book is NOT a film. But, here's why it's relevant. I heard of the book while listening to actors working with Wes Anderson on The Grande Budapest Hotel state that Anderson is a voracious reader. They amplified by stating he had set up a library of anything related in the least way to Budapest Hotel. Central to the film, I heard them say were three books by the Austrian author Stefan Zweig. A memoir: "The World of Yesterday". A novel. "Beware of Pity." And a novella, "Chess Story". I immediately googled the books! That's the backstory. I was riveted in reading about "Chess Story". No. I don't play chess. It's unnecesary. Zweig lived in the same city and time as Freud when his psychoanalytic theories were just coming into prominence. Zweig applied psychoanalytic theory to literature. In doing so, he created a masterpiece. In the interplay between two chess masters in aggressive competition, and a third character about whom Zweig tells the reader little. It is the moves, literal and figurative, that make this short novel so distinguished. Yet, the language is not elevated. This is what professors call a character-driven story. Call it a psychoanalytic thriller-mystery with shifting POV. I couldn't put the book down. Lincoln said, If this is the sort of thing you like, you will find this is the sort of thing you like. I say the same. A tragedy at the heart of Zweig's own life story deepens and makes more profound the levels of meaning in "Chess Story". Read it. Find out for yourself!
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lukas, January 29, 2015 (view all comments by lukas)
"For, as it is well known, nothing on earth puts more pressure on the human mind than nothing."
I first heard of the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig because Wes Anderson cited him as an inspiration for his most recent film, "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and Zweig, like Ralph Fiennes elegant hotel manager, is something of a symbol of the sophisticated, liberal Europe that the Nazis were trying to wipe out. After the Nazis came to power, he and his wife fled to London, then New York, and finally Brazil, where they both committed suicide. Knowing these facts makes his work all the more poignant. This slim, yet dense, novella was his final work.
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reader richard, November 18, 2010 (view all comments by reader richard)
The Book Report: Lumpenproletarian chess prodigy Czentovic, a boorish and unsympathetic figure, meets noble Jewish Dr. B. on a cruise. The good doctor is escaping the Nazis after a horrific torture-by-isolation. Czentovic is off to new triumphs as the world's greatest living chess master. Dr. B. survived his horrible isolation by reading and re-reading and memorizing and repeatedly playing in his mind great chess games from a book he stole from one of his torturers. The stage is set...the grisly Grand Master meets the gruesomely treated noble spirit in a chess battle for the ages, and is defeated. The doctor retires from the scene, completely unmanned by reliving his horrible confinement through his victory over the taciturn, unintelligent idiot savant Czentovic.

My Review: Zweig committed suicide after completing this book. I see why. It's the least optimistic, most hopeless, depressing, and horrifyingly bleak thing I've read in years. Four hankies won't do to stanch the helpless, hopeless weeping induced by reading the book, and a pistol is too heavy to hold in fingers gone too numb to clench even slightly.

It's one long flashback. The "action" of the chess match takes on an almost lurid and pornographic tinge after the grim tale Dr. B. tells of his time with the Nazis. It's dreadful. It's downbeat. It stinks of freshly-opened coffins and crematory ovens. If there is a redeeming value in having read it, it's that one need never, ever, ever touch it again, and I ASSURE you I will not.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781590171691
Author:
Zweig, Stefan
Publisher:
New York Review of Books
Translator:
Rotenberg, Joel
Introduction:
Gay, Peter
Author:
Rotenberg, Joel
Author:
Gay, Peter
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
FICTION / Literary
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
New York Review Books Classics
Publication Date:
20051231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
104
Dimensions:
8.06x5.06x.28 in. .27 lbs.

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Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics) Sale Trade Paper
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Product details 104 pages New York Review of Books - English 9781590171691 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[Zweig is a] writer who understands perfectly the life he is describing, and who has great analytic gifts....He has achieved the very considerable feat of inventing, in his description of the game of chess, a metaphor for the terribly grim game he is playing with his Nazi tormentors...the case history here is no longer that of individuals; it is the case history of Europe."
"Review" by , "Always [Zweig] remains essentially the same, revealing in all...mediums his subtlety of style, his profound psychological knowledge and his inherent humaneness."
"Review" by , "Zweig possesses a dogged psychological curiosity, a brutal frankness, a supreme impartiality...[a] concentration of talents."
"Review" by , "His writing reveals his sympathy for fellow human beings."
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