Sunday, June 24, 2018

Chess is A Game of Death

I've always been a fan of chess, although I'm rather a bad player. I love the feeling of trying to outwit your opponent with one move, all the while wondering about their moves and how far they've thought it through. The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig gripped me from beginning to end with its deadly tale of all things chess. I'm so glad I located it in a used bookstore - sometimes, one can find the most wonderful of literary gems in used bookstores. As a side note - I always wonder if the person who previously owned the book enjoyed it as much as I did, or if they read several pages then decided that it was too much (or too little) for them.

The story is thus: a distinguished business man named Frisch was found murdered in a garden in Vienna. The only clue to the murder is a chessboard made of sewn together rags with buttons used as pieces. Seems like a "locked room" mystery, right? Wrong. From there, the tale unfolds as we sit with Frisch and an acquaintance on a train from Munich to Vienna and watch them play their usual game of chess. At one point, a young man named Mayer enters their car area and proceeds to watch them play. When Frisch begins to converse with the young man in an abrupt manner, we learn that Mayer used to be a rising star within the chess world. And that, my dear readers, is when the literary sh*t hits the fan.

Revenge - ah, what a lovely subject to read and write about in a fictional setting. If the subject of the revenge was a deceitful bastard, then we can take some measure of satisfaction that they got their just reward. This novel does that so well yet with a tragic tale behind it. Mayer informs Frisch of a teacher he once had, an older eccentric man by the name of Tabori, and how that man initiated him into the world of chess. We then learn about the background of the eccentric teacher and how his life was less than stellar, yet chess proved to be a way out for him. . . . until he met his nemesis in the form of a young German man. This young German wanted to not only beat the young Tabori but to also defeat him - Tabori was a Jew. Fast forward to the time of WWII, when many Jews were in fear for their lives in Europe - Tabori and his family were sent to one of the camps. He witnessed horrific things within the camps yet the worst (and most mysterious) came in the form of a summons to visit a Nazi officer in his office. . . .

That's all I'm going to say about this book. When the ending comes, you will probably do what I did and talk it out for five minutes. I truly hope that people will give this book a chance and read it - it's worth losing an afternoon. This book also reignited my love for chess, although I'll just stick with a simple game against my computer. I would never want to play a game in which the stakes were the ones in this book.


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