THE ROYAL GAME. A short story by Stefan Zweig.
Stefan Zweig was one of the most read and respected intellects of the early twentieth century but fell out of favour or at least interest waned until recently when his work has been rediscovered. Born in Austria (1881) and exiled, later naturalized in the UK (1939-) he presented as a dissatisfied, deeply infected idealist. He disliked classification, racism and condemnation of any nation to the point of self persecution in his attempts to function as a writer and intellectual; in his personal life he chose to remain aloof of the popularity that exposed him to the distasteful minds and attitudes that he sought to change. He travelled widely to escape boredom and which, in itself never satisfied.
As a short story writer Stefan Zweig, concluded that it was his curiosity in private life, contrary to his dislike of others prying into his, that drove his writing, excited his senses and presented him with the creative means to write for his own pleasure. He enjoyed the challenge of cutting a 100,000 word manuscript down to the bare bones, usually ending with less than half, requiring concentration and repeated effort.
Of the numerous works this writer produced, I recommend “The Royal Game” of which the extract below (click on continue reading) gives some insights.
The information given me by my friend couldn’t fail to arouse my particular curiosity. All my life I have been attracted by every kind on monomania, by people obsessed with one single idea. For the more a man limits himself, the nearer he is on the other hand to what is limitless; it is precisely those who are apparently aloof from the world who build for themselves a remarkable and thoroughly individual world in miniature, using their own special equipment, termite-like.
‘ You won’t have much luck there,’ my friend warned me. ‘As far as I know no one’s been able to extract the slightest bit of psychological material from Czentovic. Behind his abysmal stupidity the wily peasant conceals the ultimate in cleverness. He leaves no chinks in his armour, thanks to a simple technique. He talks only to fellow Yugoslavs from his own background. He looks for them in small bars. If he gets a whiff of education in a man he retreats into his shell. Then no one can claim he has sounded the allegedly boundless depths of his lack of culture.’
Stefan Zweig and his second wife planned and carried out a joint suicide in their home in Brazil in February 1942.