“Chess” – “Do (E)U Read?” Project

“Chess” – “Do (E)U Read?” Project


Chess is the only game that escapes any tyranny of chance. But is not the mere fact of calling it as such an insulting degradation? Is it not also a science, an art limited to a rigidly geometric space, in perpetual development and yet sterile? A thought that leads to nothing, a mathematics that calculates nothing, an art without works, an architecture without substance, and even so it is the only game that belongs to all peoples and all times. Of which nobody knows what God bequeathed him to the Earth to kill the boredom, sharpen the senses and stimulate the spirit. When the “Do EU read?” (Project) proposed us “Game” as the theme for the next video, we had no doubt that it was time to talk about “Chess”, the latest novel that the Austrian author, Stefan Zweig, published in his life and to which belongs the monologue of the introduction … That’s my cat, Gyoza 😻 Out, out 👏🏻 Well, she is going to stay. You never stay in front of the camera when I want to take photos and now … now you’re staying right?
Are you going to leave? [Elena] Are you going to repeat the second shot again? [Daniel] Yeah, I’ll do it. In the next slide, like the previous video, we are going to show you the translation of the title in several languages, so that you can find it without problems in any bookstores mostly in any part of Europe. Just in case you will find it interesting and we are able to convince you, of course. I guess you’re wondering “what’s the book about?” “In case I’m not interested in chess, can I read it?” Yes, that does not have to be a problem; in the same way that you do not have to like war to read “War and Peace”, nor be a monarchist in order to enjoy “Macbeth”! It is a short novel a nouvelle, as the French say. In it, during a trip by boat, the captain recognizes among the passengers the world chess champion, Mirko Czentovicz The captain, who is an amateur player, ends up getting the champion to accept playing some games against the passengers which, after being crushed again and again, end up playing as a team against the champion. Even so, they keep losing until suddenly a man appears – and you do not know very well where he comes from. He starts to suggest moves with such ability that he goes, little by little, advancing positions within the group of passengers. Until he ends up playing, alone, against the world champion, putting him, at times, against the ropes. Of course, the captain, full of curiosity, looks for him on the ship in order to meet him and, when he finds him, the enigmatic man – he is in fact a fugitive of the Nazis and after a few moments of doubt, he tells his story, which is in itself the heart of the novel. [Daniel] Hola, Mar! [Mar] Hola! What should I do? Should I look at you? I shouldn’t? I read “Chess” a couple of years ago and it was, for me, the first book I read by Stefan Zweig. I liked it very much. It is a book that does not leave you well, therefore it took a while (for me) to read another of his books. And even if I really wanted to do it, (I waited) because for me Zweig is an author who requires time between each of his novels. It really is a deposit that lasts sometimes months, sometimes years. It’s because of the types of thought, by how the thought… [Daniel] …monomaniacal, obsessive… [MAR] Yes, the monomaniac and obsessive (thought) imposes itself very easily on a more imaginative, more creative thinking, and it always ends up winning. “Chess ” does not leave you with the idea, or does not leave it open, that sometimes you can win the other kind of thinking. It really has a pretty pessimistic ending in that sense, which has a lot to do with the end of Zweig himself. [Daniel] Zweig’s life was tragic. It was one of the first pan-European in an era clouded by totalitarian nationalisms and, moreover, he was German Jew. In 2016 they shot a movie about his life with the title “Stefan Zweig. Farewell to Europe” which in Spanish I believe it has been translated as “Adiós a Europa”, where they review his last years of exile in Europe, America and, finally, Brazil that may be of interest if you want to know the vicissitudes of the author of the book we have today here. Stefan Zweig, who died in 1942, was a successful writer in his own time and later forgotten. This, as many of you know, is nothing special, nor the opposite. Throughout history, the work of many artists has been forgotten, while others, who died in destitution, were recognised some time later by subsequent generations and this is something usual. However, what is not so common is Zweig’s own trajectory: he knew success during his life, then he gradually lost popularity, at least here in Spain, and for a few years he has turned it around to claim as a prestigious author. For me he was always a familiar author, because he was one of my grandparents’ favourite authors, who had his “Complete works”, in Aguilar’s edition with 12 or 15 volumes… an outrage. He was prolific and a great writer of biographies: perhaps the most famous is that of Marie Antoinette, to which, in my opinion, Sofia Coppola’s movie owes a lot And yet, I did not know this novel, “Chess”, until a few years ago, even though my grandfather, apart from being a Zweig’s reader, he was also a good amateur chess player – he had a very extensive chess library and he had won some championships in his youth – But probably, I think, I considered it too adult for me – although that, for example, did not prevent me to read Allan Poe when I was only 12 years old. [Elena MORALES, co-owner of “El tiempo perdido” & Professor of literature] [Daniel] Hola, Helen! [Elena] Hola. [Danile] Look! [Elena] How are you? What are you doing? [Daniel] Are you correcting [tests]? [Elena] Eh… yes. [Daniel] Can you give me one minute? How did you get to Zweig? [Elena] After I’ve noticed in the shop that many older people read it, like it, know it and have read everything or almost everything about it. I liked “Chess” a lot, very much, and it is very hard and very deep, despite how brief it is. What is interesting about Zweig, from the beginning, is his style. A very precise language, usually quite short sentences. Each phrase is interesting in its own right, regardless of the subject it deals with. [Daniel] In fact a German film was shot in 1960 based on the novel and you can find it on YouTube. But, as Elena says, perhaps the most interesting part of the novel and, in general, of Zweig’s work, is language, the precision with which it describes thoughts and arises his reflections. To the point that, even translated, [he] almost always gives the feeling that the strength of their sentences lies in the exact word and in the precise nuance, and that any other term or form of the phrase would be inadequate or would be over. Maybe that’s why he was prodigal in short novels, because he was one of those writers who respect the reader so much that they would never write a paragraph just to fill the space. I say goodbye, thank you very much for following us and I hope that we were able to arouse interest for this novel and Zweig. And if not, we will content ourselves with not having bored you. So see you next time!

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