Elke Rehder – Stefan Zweig chess story Schachnovelle

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Stefan Zweig chess story Schachnovelle

Schachnovelle is a rare book with original woodcuts by the German artist Elke Rehder, published by Ulrike Erber-Bader, Freiburg im Breisgau, 2004. 108 pages with six color woodcuts. Size: 25 x 15.5 cm.

Schachnovelle is a bibliophile book in letterpress printing after the German text published by Bermann-Fischer in Stockholm 1943 and after the first edition published by Pigmalion in Buenos Aires 1942. The layout was made according to specifications by Ulrike Erber-Bader.

The letterpress printing and the printing of the six woodcuts from the original blocks was done in the workshops of the Fischbach Presse in Texing, Austria. The name of the font type is Rialto. Letterpress printing on paper named Old Zerkall noble white Burgundy. The hand bound book was crafted with perfection by Thomas Zwang in Hamburg, using a hand made paper by the artist Gangolf Ulbricht in Berlin. The edition of this book is strictly limited to only 100 copies. Each book is numbered and signed by the artist Elke Rehder.

In June 2004 Ulrike Erber-Bader dedicated the books to the participants of the 105. annual meeting of the Gesellschaft der Bibliophilen in Frankfurt. There are also some copies in international collections and libraries.

Stefan Zweig chess story, book in German after the first edition of Schachnovelle, numbered and signed
rare book Stefan Zweig chess story Schachnovelle with woodcuts by the artist Elke Rehder

 

Brass printing block for the cover illustration of the rare book Schachnovelle, the chess story by Stefan Zweig
Brass printing block for the cover illustration of the rare book Schachnovelle by Stefan Zweig

 

My reflections about The Royal Game

Some years ago, I got some original drawings by Hans Fronius from Erich Fitzbauer in Vienna. Fronius illustrated the "Schachnovelle" for the publishing house Bermann Fischer 1949 in Stockholm. The small book contains 7 illustrations. The pictures show the young Czentovic in front of the chessboard, a cafe house scene, a steamer accompanied by sea gulls in the foreground, Dr. B. laying in a deckchair, a sea gull catching a big fish, three sitting and two standing people around a table and Dr. B. leaving Czentovic after the last game. I like the kind of art by Hans Fronius very much, but I had other ideas and I was looking behind the action to understand the meaning. Consciously I avoided to illustrate the book again. My request was to represent the idea behind it. In 1996 I published a portfolio with 6 woodcuts on Dosabiki Masashi Japanese paper.

The 1942 published "Schachnovelle" is such a multilayered novella that repetitive reading points out new aspects again and again. Stefan Zweig described masterfully the psychological procedures of people. This novella was published in countless editions and was translated into nearly all languages of the world, but I like to describe the contents here very briefly:

On a steamer on the journey from New York to Buenos Aires plays the Austrian emigrant Dr. B. (a certain soul relationship to Stefan Zweig is to assume here), an intelligent, creative and sensitive man, against the chess world champion Czentovic. In this framework novella there is the story of Dr. B., who was held in prison by the Gestapo in the Nazi regime. By coincidence he catched a book with master games of chess. Without a chess board he trained the combinations. In his jail cell he began to play against himself, which caused a personality splitting and this manifested itself in a "chess poisoning". This kind of the "poisoning" caused a "nerve fever".

Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game woodcut 1
Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game woodcut 1

 

woodcut 2 from the book Stefan Zweig Schachnovelle chess story The Royal Game
Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game woodcut 2

 

woodcut 3 Schachnovelle by Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game
Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game woodcut 3

 

woodcut 4 from the book Schachnovelle by Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game woodcut 4

 

Stefan Zweig Schachnovelle woodcut 5 from the numbered and signed book
Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game woodcut 5

 

chess story Stefan Zweig Schachnovelle woodcut 6 from the signed book after the first edition
Stefan Zweig chess story The Royal Game woodcut 6

 

On the steamer Dr. B. gets a "Remis" against the chess world champion Czentovic. The world champion is playing like a robot but is not able to think abstract. He needs the optical perception of the chessboard.

Against his will Dr. B. is forced to a second game. Czentovic uses the psychological weakness of his opponent by using his time limit. In the waiting periods Dr. B. begins to simulate in his spirit imaginary game situations. The consequence is a "chess poisoning" as in his earlier solitary confinement. Before an arising "chess fever" can cause his collapse, Dr. B. gives up the game. Czentovic, whose mental horizon does not seem to go beyond the 64 squares of the chessboard, triumphed in his statement: "The attack was not so badly disposed at all. For a dilettante this gentleman is actually unusually talented".

Sensitivity and differentiated intelligence are lost. This is also the fate of many intellectuals in that time, who could save themselves from the destruction only by escape into the emigration.

Stefan Zweig warns with his story against the endangerment of the liberally humanistic spirit by the political force. Zweig thought that his novella was too abstract "for the large public". Perhaps this was also the reason for the fact that the novella was published 1942 by Pigmalión in Buenos Aires in an edition of only 250 numbered copies and 50 roman numbered copies in hardcover by János Peter Kramer.

For Stefan Zweig the emigration was a large psychological load. In end of the novella Dr. B. will not be able to play the royal game. Zweig believed that he will never see again the liberal Europe. The game is over and always settled. For Dr. B. as for Stefan Zweig there will be no way out, both are victims.

In 1942 Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte committed suicide. In his farewell letter Zweig wrote: "After the sixtieth year of life it requires special forces, to begin completely new. And mine are exhausted by the long years of homeless walking. Thus I hold it for better to end in time and in upright attitude a life for that mental work always has been the greatest joy and personal freedom has been the highest property on the earth." Despite his security in the emigration Zweig could not get over the loss of the liberal Europe.

zweig-chess-story-signed-drawing.jpg (64838 Byte)

Schachnovelle - book with an original pencil drawing signed by the artist Elke Rehder. Cover illustration after a woodcut by Elke Rehder. German edition. Publisher S. Fischer, Frankfurt. ISBN 9783596512355. 96 pages, size: 14,6 x 9,3 cm. With an original drawing by the artist on the second title page, signed and dated 2012. You can order this book with the signed original pencil drawing, please have a look to the page Stefan Zweig chess story

 

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