Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman: AND The Royal Game Paperback – 30 Jun 2006
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In the 1920s and 30s, Stefan Zweig was one of the most famous writers in the world. Thanks to the enterprising Pushkin Press, it is now possible to read the novellas on which his reputation must finally depend... He deserves to be famous again, and for good. --Paul Bailey, The Times Literary Supplement
About the Royal Game: Perhaps the best chess story ever written, perhaps the best about any game. Never mind that you may never have moved a pawn to King four; the story will grip you. --The Economist
About the Author
STEFAN ZWEIG was born in 1881 in Vienna, a member of a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He studied in Berlin and Vienna and was first known as a poet and translator, then as a biographer. His stories and novellas were collected in 1934. Zweig travelled widely, living in Salzburg between the wars, and enjoying literary fame. In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he briefly moved to London, taking British citizenship. After a short period in New York, he settled in Brazil where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in bed in an apparent double suicide.
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Top Customer Reviews
Twenty-four Hours...is a not untypical tale of a woman in love and despair, translated by Anthea Bell, and is as essential - or as disposable, if your name is Michael Hofmann - as anything by this perceptively wily writer.
The Royal Game is something very special indeed, a story whose worth should be trumpeted from the rooftops.
Ostensibly, it is a tale of a game (or several) of chess aboard an ocean liner bound for Buenos Aires, involving a surly, monosyllabic international chess master, the reserved but necessarily inquisitive narrator, and a man whose incidental brilliance at the titular 'royal game' hides a deeper, tragic truth.
I was riveted by this story, and you will be too, whether you know anything about chess or not (though a slight knowledge might help). It touches on not only obsession, but also near-insanity, the uniquely odd foibles and character traits of certain chess masters, and - more important perhaps - the insidious tyranny of the Nazis in Europe in the early forties, when the tale was written: one of Zweig's last, strongly translated here by B.W. Huebsch in 1944, two years after the author and his wife commited suicide together in Brazil.
Zweig was, in my opinion, just about as important a writer of the early twentieth century as we have, and all his stories, which have now been comprehensively translated and newly published, are a treasure beyond price.
Here are two of the best.
24 Hours in the Life of a Woman is much more about passion (of a woman for a man, and of a man for gambling) whereas The Royal Game is about the struggle between Dr B, who has lived entirely in his imagination, and Czentovic, who is uncouth and unimaginative away from the chessboard. The second story could be seen as an allegory of the brutality of Nazism (which Zweig fled) and its suppression of thought and the intellect.
The difficulty with 24 Hours is that it deals with a subject that had to be treated with some delicacy in the period it was written (1927). The emphasis is on the emotional aspects of the relationship, so the physical side is neglected. As a result, the unnamed Englishwoman's sudden infatuation is portrayed as irrational, but it is implied that it is the sort of thing that might happen to a woman, but not to a rational creature such as a man. Some readers might find this a bit sexist, although in fairness the Polish aristocrat's obsessive gambling is no less irrational, and far more damaging to himself and others.
The Royal Game is much more about the danger of disassociating both imagination from reality (which happens to Dr B' during his incarceration) and reality from imagination (as personified by the lumbering Czentovic). Zweig is on surer ground here, and the characters of the protagonists more clearly drawn.
The format of the two stories is similar, they are told by an unnamed narrator who is removed from the main events.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Don't miss any of the above.
Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman is not a novel but a beautifully crafted story. Zweig is a master at drawing wonderful characters. Inititially set in a small guest house in the French Riviera in the 1920's where the narrator is befriended by a 67 year old English widow who becomes the principal character of the book. She relates to the narrator an event that took place 20 odd years earlier in Monte Carlo. No surprises for guessing that the Casino features in her account. Zweig's description of the widow watching the gamblers is brilliantly evoked. She is mesmerised by one of the gamblers, a young Polish aristocarat and subsequently unfolds a fascinating and hauntingly realistic chain of events. Written in 1927 and mostly set in about 1900 this gem of a story has definitely weathered the passage of time.
A woman falls under the spell of a gambler who lost his fortune and is on the verge of committing suicide. She tries desperately to save him.
This is an impressive short novel, because of the strong emerging feelings which erupt like volcanoes and leave the main characters totally upset. The endgame and the end are stunning.
It is one of Stefan Zweig's most successful short novels, although he is handicapped by the comparison with Dostoyevsky.
If you are lucky, you can see Berenice Bejo in 24 Heures de la Vie d'Une Femme (Original French Version DVD).
If none of the above is satisfactory, there is, of course ...