The Royal Game & Other Stories by Stefan Zweig. New York. 1981. Harmony Books. Translated From The German By Jill Sutcliffe. Introduction By John Fowles. keywords: Literature Austria Germany Translated Vienna. 250 pages. Jacket design by Shirley Tuckley. 0517545535.

The stories of Stefan Zweig are exquisite gems. In his day he was one of most popular writers of his time, but now many of his books are out-of-print. Thankfully, a few presses like Pushkin Press are making some of Zweig's work available once again. THE ROYAL GAME & OTHER STORIES contains some of Zweig's classics.


   It is difficult to imagine, while reading the five newly translated stories here, how a writer of Stefan Zweig's awesome gifts came to suffer literary obscurity. Such formidable figures as Thomas Mann, Richard Strauss, and Sigmund Freud all praised Zweig; his books were international best-sellers. As John Fowles writes in his introduction to The Royal Game and Other Stories, Zweig is a 'remarkably fertile and gifted writer. Stefan Zweig's stories have a dark magnetism; they explore the limitless scope of every kind of single-mindedness-obsessional love, pathological revenge, and even madness in chess. Zweig wrote: 'A psychological problem is as attractive for me in a living person as in an historical person. my novels and biographies come out of the same source. , an insatiable curiosity. ' Zweig pushes his fictional characters through traps and pitfalls that divert them from their characteristic behavior and then follows them to the extremes to which their minds will eventually lead. The reader is inexorably drawn into a web of hidden secrets and unforgettable characters. THE ROYAL GAME AND OTHER STORIES brings to the modern reader a compelling kind of narrative wizardry little found today. As John Fowles, author of The French Lieutenant's Woman, concludes in his introduction, 'Now I must let Zweig's troubled, but always humane, spirit speak for itself. It has wandered much too far out of the English-speaking world's memory. It is time, on this centenary of his birth, that we read him again. ' Five stories you will always remember by a writer you will never forget. In LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, a celebrated novelist returns home early one morning. His servant hands him tea and a letter; the letter is written in an unfamiliar, shaky, feminine hand. It begins, 'To you who never knew me,' and gradually reveals a woman's obsession and impossible love. THE BURNING SECRET is a story from the land of childhood. During the days of Imperial Austria, a young baron arrives in Semmering for a mountain holiday. At an elegant dinner, he finds an object for his lust: a sensual Jewess, who is accompanied by her small boy. The baron befriends the boy, gains his confidence, and closes in on the married mother. AMOK is a tale of dark passion. As John Fowles says, 'Conrad's literal typhoons are carried over into the domain of the sexual. ' A European doctor commits a crime. Guilt-ridden and alcoholic, he is banished to the remote tropics. At first, he successfully fights death and disease - later, they seep into his very being. A wealthy married woman mysteriously appears at his isolated outpost, pregnant with her lover's child. Trapped by her own passion, she requests the doctor's services. He agrees but only if she will first surrender herself to him. Frau Wagner, in 'FEAR,' is respectable-she has a husband, children, and servants. Yet something has gone wrong; she lives and dreams the horror that her secret love will be discovered. THE ROYAL GAME is the story of a man who enters into a fateful chess match. Imprisoned years before by the Gestapo, a single chess book saves Dr. B. from the madness of solitary confinement. Now while he is aboard a ship to Buenos Aires, his fellow passengers urge him to challenge Czenotivic, the world champion, to a match. Dr. B. hesitates, then agrees. The madness of his imprisonment returns. 'Stefan Zweig has suffered, since his death in 1942, a darker eclipse than any other famous writer of this century. Even 'famous writer' understates the prodigious reputation he enjoyed in the last decade or so of his life, when he was arguably the most widely read and translated serious author in the world. ' - From the Introduction by John Fowles.

STEFAN ZWEIG was born in 1881 in Vienna to a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He was first known as a poet and translator and then as a biographer, producing studies of an assortment of people-notably, Erasmus, Joseph Fouch?, and Marie Antoinette. His well-known collection of stories, Kaleidoscope, appeared in 1934 and his one-truly remarkable-novel, Beware of Pity, appeared in 1939. Zweig traveled widely, and living in Salzburg between the wars, he made friends with the greats-Romain Rolland, Freud, Toscanini. Recognition as a writer came early, and by the time he was forty, he had already achieved literary fame. In 1934, with Nazism entrenched across the border, Zweig left Austria to settle in England-his publishing life was destroyed by the Nazis and he saw his dream of a united Europe shattered. Shortly after completing the title story in this collection in 1942, Zweig took his own life in Petropolis, Brazil.


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