Chess Story by Stefan Zweig: A Book Review

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig: A Book Review

Quite recently, I suffered through what I refer as ‘the longest reading slump‘ period, for about three months. That is when a good friend of mine suggested Chess Story by Stefan Zweig. To be honest, he sold it hard and it took me a while to pick the book. But boy, was I surprised!

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About Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

Chess Story

Book Name: Chess Story

Author: Stefan Zweig

Genre: Fiction – Classics,  Historical

Characters: Mirko Czentovič, Dr. B

Setting: Argentina, Austria

Plot Summary of Chess Story

Chess Story begins with the narrator, an Austrian, boarding the ship that travels from New York to Buenos Aires. On board is, Czentovic, the World Chess Champion who spends his time challenging the other travelers in a game of chess and earning a bit of money. The passengers come together to play against him and still lose.

We learn about Czentovic’s humble beginning and how he reaches his heights by sheer brute force and hard-work. He is unapologetic, unfriendly and boorish. He understands what is at stake when he plays every game and plays to show off his supremacy over the game.

During one of such games in the afternoon, a mystery man called Mr. B manages to help the group win an upset against Czentovic. Mr. B is a noble Jewish banker who is humbled by his wartime experiences.

During the World War II, he was restrained by the Gestapos him between the walls of his cell, interrogating for information regarding the wealth of his clients, his only companion being a stolen anthology of 150 chess games. He reads and memorizes the moves and that became obsession later mania to get him through his period of imprisonment. Intrigued and miffed by Mr. B’s act, Czentovic challenges him to play the royal game against him. which forms the rest of the story.

Book review of Chess Story

I sure hoped for Mr. B to win the game with his ingenuity and supreme intelligence, against the unfriendly and boorish World Champion – you know ‘let the underdog win’ argument?

But I would just warn you already, prepare for the twist and a depressing ending. I think it is now safe to inform the author committed suicide just weeks after he finished the novella. So be warned.

Someone said that the mark of a good book is it changes every time you read. I can safely say Chess Story is definitely one of such books.

For someone who reads the book for the first time, it is a story between the blacks and whites of Chess Story board, where there are no grey shades. The hard work vs the tacts. The lyrical prose, despite being a translated work, will make you compelled to read it again and it being just an 84 paged novella would help.

But sometime during my second reading (shortly after Christmas, yeah just days before this review), I found another layer unraveling itself. It became more than the game, but of the personalities that clashed between. Zweig’s understanding of human nature is spot on.

And knowing about his death made it all the more difficult to digest the ending, despite knowing what was going to happen.


I cannot gush enough about Chess Story and I have recommended the book to many people now. If you want to move on to literary fiction but do not know where to start, or want to read something that would not put you off those kinda books – Chess Story is your answer.

It is, for me, a perfect novella with complex characters and a beautiful prose.

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Have you read Chess Story by Stefan Zweig? Do you read literary fiction? Which is your favorite literary fiction? Let us talk. 

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig: A Book Review

Book Review: The book thief

I had been hearing rad reviews about The Book Thief for a while now from everywhere, thanks to its movie namesake. I knew I would like it, as it has been repeatedly suggested by like minded friends as well, but was holding back from jumping into for want of time.

Finally as soon as I got my mobile with a larger screen, I feigned illness to stay up in bed for a longer hours only to read. And I was not disappointed at all.

Title: The Book Thiefelgeewrites Book Review: The book thief ir?t=elgeereviews 20&l=am2&o=1&a=0375842209
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Main Characters: Liesel Meminger, Hans Hubermann, Rudy Steiner, Rosa Hubermann,Max Vandenburg, Tommy Müller, Ilsa Hermann, Frau Holtzapfel
Setting: Molching, Germany,1939

The Book Thief elgeewrites Book Review: The book thief ir?t=elgeereviews 20&l=am2&o=1&a=0375842209 is a slow moving poignant story of a young, skinny German girl Liesel Meminger who lives with her foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann at 33, Himmel Street. The story has layers of intertwined lives filled with emotions that makes me feel bewildered not knowing where to start. What better, if not easier path to start than from the beginning.

The narration is by none other than Death, personified, which makes it all the more interesting. The story begins with the narrator saying that He had visited the girl thrice in her life time. The girl and her brother were given up to her foster parents by her mother, but en route to meet them her brother dies in the train. Liesel and her mother arrange for his burial in a nameless town, where she picks up a book dropped by one of the grave diggers – that’s her first book thievery.

The book thiefShe is entrusted with Hans and Rosa, who takes care of her as their own. She particularly gets very close to her Papa. She grows up rich with memories and love, though they lived at one of the poorer part of the town and struggle to make ends meet. Rudy Steiner, her best friend and partner in crime, and Liesel, alongside the other street urchins steal food often from the richer neighborhoods. Her Papa teaches her to read and write painfully and slowly so that she can read the book she had stolen. Lives continue as peacefully as it can at a poor German community, where Nazis are already hunting down Kommunists and Jews.

The Book Thief balances between the history and cruelty of the Nazis and the personal lives of people whose lives the war shatters. Liesel’s family gets to harbor a Jew in their basement, a secret she even keeps from Rudy. Nazis want to recruit Rudy into their programme and his father refuses to send his son into the ill fated troop. Death continues to visit our little book thief, revealing too much might make it a spoiler. You should definitely read this book!

I should start off by saying how much I loved the simple yet powerful language used. Too many quotable quotes to remember and not to worry, I have shared them for you below the review. Though I got to know that Death visited her thrice earlier in the story, I couldn’t keep the book down till I finished the last paragraph since I wanted to know what happened next.

I loved the friendly banter between Liesel and Rudy as much as I loved the relationship of Hans and Rosa. Who could not admire Hans for his kindness, benevolence and integrity despite the hard times they faced! Every single character, be it small or not, from Max, Ilsa to even Frau Diller who was a Fuehrer loyalist was etched perfection.

Even tiny moments left a lingering impact in my mind, like Illsa offering notebooks for Liesel to write her own thoughts, which incidentally saves her life and Max’s sketches extolling the power of the words and its role in Hitler’s rise. Nothing but Markus’s words could have let me justify the suicide of the son of Frau Holtzman, who had already lost her other son to the war.

The way that Death was personified, not just as the evil taker of lives but as a being that “who gently carries off the souls of those who have passed” spun sheer magic for me and I clearly was hooked.

I had to hold the best for the last, don’t I? I simply adored Rudy. Be it his crazy obsession about Jesse Owens that he blackened himself head to toe, or his loyal friendship that he always accompanied our book thief even though he knows she was lying about hunting the Mayor’s house for food. I couldn’t stop grinning every time he asked for a kiss. And to know he wasn’t going to survive the end earlier on, made him more irresistible than before. Rudy Steiner you are the romantic guy that I need 😉 Augustus Waters, who?

Now few (or more) quotes that I loved from The Book Thief. Feel free to share them 😛

“Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.”

“No matter how many times she was told that she was loved, there was no recognition that the proof was in the abandonment. Nothing changed the fact that she was a lost, skinny child in another foreign place, with more foreign people. Alone.”

“Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children “

” is there cowardice in the acknowledgment of fear? Is there cowardice in being glad that you lived?”

It’s probably what I love most about writing—that words can be used in a way that’s like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They’re the best moments in a day of writing—when an image appears that you didn’t know would be there when you started work in the morning.”

I cannot stop gushing over The Book Thiefelgeewrites Book Review: The book thief ir?t=elgeereviews 20&l=am2&o=1&a=0375842209 yet, to anyone who would listen. Yes it is a little slow but powerful words make up for that. I am yet to see the movie, so I am not yet ready to have your “movie or book?“question but do fire away all your other questions.

Have you read The Book Thief, what are your thoughts on it? Let me know.