The art of the great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a difficult balancing act. Zweig's major subject was human limitation, above all the ways in which the best of intentions can lead people into the murkiest of emotional and moral cul-de-sacs. And yet Zweig also hoped to illumine those dark places of the heart and mind, to show that it is not, finally, impossible to attain a true perspective on our limitations, even to care for each other. Zweig, much like his contemporary E. M. Forster, was liberal and humanist to the core, gambling on human goodness against the specters of oppression and despair.
In 1938, Nazism forced Zweig into exile. Chess Story, sometimes known as The Royal Game, was the last thing he wrote before he and his wife committed suicide. This gripping novella is a final effort to take the human measure of the inhuman.
On a great ocean liner, the world champion of chess confronts a lawyer with a surprising talent for the game in a tense contest of wit and will. How the lawyer acquired his skill and at what terrible cost are the substance of a story, in which, at the same time, quietly but unmistakably, the death knell of the Enlightenment in sounded.