Zugzwang Hardcover – 3 Sep 2007
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`A clever and exciting thriller ... Chess writer and acclaimed novelist Bennett has produces a crime novel that's both literary and gripping, a rare treat' -- John Harding, Daily Mail
`A potentially rich metaphor for life... a racy addition to chess fiction' -- Steven Poole, Guardian
`This classy, literate thriller is about chess, psychoanalysis, Russian skullduggery, history, mystery, romance - and more' -- Kate Saunders, The Times
About the Author
Ronan Bennett was brought up in Belfast. He is the author of four novels, including the hugely acclaimed The Catastrophist (shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award) and Havoc, in Its Third Year (winner of the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year and longlisted for both the Booker Prize and the IMPAC award). He has also written screenplays for film and television. Zugzwang was serialised weekly in the Observer in 2006. Ronan Bennett lives in London with his family.
Top Customer Reviews
This thriller is set in a pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg inhabited with anarchists, Bolsheviks, secret police and double agents. Dr. Otto Spethmann, a psychoanalyst, is visited by the police who demand to know his relationship with a dead man, Yastrebov. Spethmann has no knowledge of him but from then on a whole series of dramatic events unfold - murders, kidnappings, threats and assassination plots. There is a whole range of great characters: Rozental, the chess genius on the verge of a complete breakdown, Kopelzon, an acclaimed musician who is vain and hypocritical, Lychev, the intelligent and complex policeman and Anna, the damaged beauty with whom Otto falls in love. Otto's daughter is also a surprisingly modern young woman - headstrong and liberated.
The plot is convoluted with lots of twists and turns involving revolutionary and counter-revolutionary plots - all great fun but infused with political and ethical dilemmas. Can the murder of one man be excused if it eventually means the lives of others can be improved? Can terrorism be justified?
The whole book is infused with a chess game between Spethmann and Kopelzon, complete with diagrams and moves. Even readers (like me)who don't follow chess could enjoy this battle which is also reflected in the plot.Read more ›
Dr. Otto Spethmann, a St. Petersburg psychoanalyst, stays out of the turmoil of politics, counseling two particularly fascinating patients. Avrom Chilowicz Rosental, a contender for the Grandmaster of Chess Award in the upcoming tournament, is a shy, sad Pole on the verge of a breakdown, virtually unable to communicate except on the chess board. Anna Petrovna Ziatdinov, a famed beauty tormented by memories, is the daughter of a rich industrialist suspected of funding the Black Hundreds and their attacks on Jews. Despite this "ordinary" life, Spethmann is drawn into an increasing spiral of violence.
A young man, found bludgeoned to death, carries Spethmann's card, and Rosental's file is stolen from his office.Read more ›
However, before you can repeat the apocryphal line, "You may not be interested in the revolution, but the revolution is interested in you!" -- Spethmann is caught up in a very tangled web of intrigue involving Moscow policemen, the Tsar's secret police, Bolshevik cells, Polish terrorists, anti-Jewish aristocrats, chess masterminds, and the sexy daughter of a powerful man. Naturally of these many characters are not quite what they seem, and Spethmann's innocence is methodically stripped away by all the factions at play. The title is a German term for a chess scenario "in which a player is reduced to a state of utter helplessness. He is obliged to move, but his every move only makes his position worse." This is meant to highlight Spethmann's predicament, -- as well as that of the Tsarist government.
The story suffers slightly in two aspects. First is the running chess game between Spethmann and his best friend, which is illustrated with pictures of the state of play. As the story progresses, the tension between them grows, and the game takes on increasing symbolism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One reviewer observes that the focus of Ronan Bennett's thriller is on the characters not the plot. Just as well. Read morePublished on 9 Feb. 2011 by Gs-trentham