Theory of Shadows

Theory of Shadows

Book - 2018 | First American edition
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On the morning of March 24, 1946, the world chess champion Alexander Alekhine--"sadist of the chess world," renowned for his eccentric behavior as well as the ruthlessness of his playing style--was found dead in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. He was fully dressed and wearing an overcoat, slumped back in a chair, in front of a meal, a chessboard just out of reach. The doctor overseeing the autopsy certified that Alekhine died of asphyxiation due to a piece of meat stuck in his larynx and assured the world that there was absolutely no evidence of suicide or foul play. Some, of course, have commented that the photos of the corpse look suspiciously theatrical, as though staged. Others have wondered why Alekhine would have sat down to his dinner in a hot room while wearing a heavy overcoat. And what about all these rumors concerning Alekhine's activities during World War II? Did he really pen a series of articles on the inherent inferiority of Jewish chess players? Can he really be seen in photographs with high-ranking Nazi officials? And as for his own homeland, is it true that the Russians considered him a traitor, as well as a possible threat to the new generation of supposedly superior Soviet chess masters?
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018
Edition: First American edition
Branch Call Number: FICTION MAU
Characteristics: 179 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN: 9780374273804
0374273804

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From Library Staff

There’s an intriguing mystery at the heart of this literary novel inspired by historical fact: just how, exactly, did a disgraced Russian chess champion meet his seedy end in a Portuguese hotel room? It’s easy to admire the artfulness of this slim work while eagerly turning the pages to follow th... Read More »

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SkokieStaff_Steven Jan 31, 2018

Paolo Maurensig’s new work of biographical fiction “Theory of Shadows” represents a certain Old World ideal: slim, elegant, cultured, and distinguished by careful craftsmanship. It centers on the last days of a real-life, down-on-his-heels, Russian-born world chess champion now in postwar Portugu... Read More »


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SkokieStaff_Steven Jan 31, 2018

Paolo Maurensig’s new work of biographical fiction “Theory of Shadows” represents a certain Old World ideal: slim, elegant, cultured, and distinguished by careful craftsmanship. It centers on the last days of a real-life, down-on-his-heels, Russian-born world chess champion now in postwar Portuguese exile, shadowed by a past that includes complicity with both the Soviets and members of the Nazi elite. The suspense, and the mystery, of the novel comes from awaiting which of his many circling enemies will finally do him in, assuming he doesn’t accomplish the deed himself. One of the characters mentions how the Portuguese fertilize their vineyards with the carcasses of dogs, and this contrast between the refined and the revolting informs the whole novel. It belongs with other autumnal elegies for a Europe grown old and decadent such as Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice,” Sándor Márai’s “Embers,” and Stefan Zweig’s “Chess Story.”

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