Overview

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 ...
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Chess Story

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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[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

"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

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

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590175606
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 12/7/2011
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 279,599
  • File size: 262 KB

Meet 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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Pawn on a Chess Board

    Chess Story by Stephan Zweig; translated by Joel Rotenberg

    The story takes place on a cruise ship en route from New York to Buenos Aires in 1941. The world chess champion, Mirko Czentovic, is on board. Czentovic is a chess prodigy who is singularly ungifted in other areas of the intellect and social graces. Also on board is Dr. B, a former solicitor for the Austrian imperial family who is traveling to South America as a refugee from the Nazi regime.
    At the outset, considering Czentovic's isolated and emotionally deprived childhood, I was prepared to allow him his arrogance and conceit. Acknowledged, he was a master at chess and his boorish behavior could be excused. When Dr. B becomes peripherally involved in the chess match and exhibits a mastery of moves, it becomes clear that this man has somehow or other been absorbed into the exalted realm of chess. As his story unfolds, the reader enters the world of isolation and solitary that Dr. B endured at the hands of his Nazi tormenters. Zweig is so masterful at the depiction of the incarceration and the man's mental salvation through the game of chess that we as readers are carried along so forcibly that we leave the confines of our homes for the world of Dr. B. Every emotion he experienced, every racing of his pulse, every fearful moment, his ultimate dissociation of his personality and his breakdown are experienced by the reader. The descriptions are powerful and cause a visceral reaction that is astonishing. As I was reading, I started to note a racing pulse and sweating and a sense of uncontrollable foreboding. As the story raced to its conclusion, I had the urge to shout, "Halt! Don't play again!" I wept when I set the book down. The tears were for Dr. B, all of the victims of the Nazi carnage and perhaps also a reaction to what came to pass, the suicide of the author. This gem of a small book explores and disturbs the human psyche like no other.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

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  • Posted September 9, 2009

    Intellectual, passionate, grasping story

    I read this story ~30 years ago in Hungarian translation. I liked it so much that for years, I have been searching for the novella; I wanted to read it again in English. I wondered if it still would have the same magical, stimulating grasp on me as it did then and weather the English translation would bring out the immense depth of Zweig the same way as the excellent Hungarian translation did.
    Well, within the limitation of not being able to read the original German story, I must say that translation is on par with the intention of the author at least as much as it came through in the Hungarian translation. The story is as fascinating as it was for me 30 years ago. Since then, I saw a magnificent movie by Ingrid Bergman, called the "7th seal" and the main character of the book reminded me of Bergman's hero, who could almost cheat Death itself. The man in the story, who was kept in a Nazi interrogation facility, and who reluctantly learned to play chess just to keep his sanity, nearly accomplished the unthinkable..., only the psychological burden, related to the captivity prevented his ultimate success. His final chess game on an ocean liner is a symbol of humanity set up against a cold, calculating, nearly perfect machine, free of emotions and free of just about anything that makes us human. At that time, it was Nazism, you make up your mind what it would be today...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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