Thread: Literary Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
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Old 04-19-2013, 04:06 PM   #38
fantasyfan
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Sun surfer's comments certainly make a good case for the subtlety of this book. I liked particularly his point about social class which points out a complexity in the author's attitudes to this subject:

Regarding social class, I find this story very interesting. I do agree that Zweig perhaps was old-fashioned and perhaps didn't like the idea of social climbers. However, I do have to balance that with the history that he lived in, a world full of massive social upheaval, with a quick rise to power of people - a whole group of people - not only less wealthy and of a lower social class, but less educated and often anti-intellectual too, and that mixed with a persecution of his own class, his family, the people he knew and formerly well-off intellectuals in general.

I wasn't impressed with Czentovic's portrayal at all when I read the book, but I really didn't notice the point made by Sun surfer:

And finally, Czentovic himself. He is presented the entire story as this oaf of a man who has this strange brilliance for chess and chess alone. As someone who is an almost complete imbecile except for the complexities of chess movements. And yet, then, at the end of the story, what happens? He makes an astute psychological observation! It had nothing to do with chess movements and everything to do with a more keen, insightful intelligence. If he were the same lumbering Czentovic that we'd been presented with in the story up to that point, then he would've just altogether not paid any attention to whatever Dr. B did and only concentrated on the moves.

I wouldn't go quite as far as Sun Surfer in seeing Dr B as a villain {perhaps unwittingly made so by Zweig} but I'm going to have to think through my ideas about his rival! My main difficulty with his portrayal was perfectly expressed by Hamlet 53 who made the point in his fine post that Chess Grandmasters simply don't think the way Ctenovic does. They have an amazing power to visualise. (Gerald Abrahams discusses this in his book The Chess Mind.) Perhaps Zweig has decided to simply subvert this quality in order to give an edge to that final unexpected remark of the Champion. Could Ctenovic be an image of the Nazi mind-set--an approach to life which "works" on a purely mechanical level but which has nothing to do with the intrinsic worth and beauty of humanity?

Thanks for that thoughtful post, Sun surfer!

Last edited by fantasyfan; 04-20-2013 at 08:22 AM.
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