Last night I read a novella by Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), an Austrian writer, entitled "The Royal Game". It was absorbing, and even did reasonable justice to the game. A synopsis of the novella, borrowed from the web, is below. But the story got me thinking: could anyone else here recommend some good chess fiction to read? (There's a novel by Nabokov mentioned below too. Anyone read it?)
Mirko Czentovic, a semiliterate son of a Danube boatman, "incapable of writing any sentence in any language without making spelling mistakes", travels on a ship from Europe to South America. However, he is the world chess champion. He wins the first game, but the second against Dr. B., a Viennese lawyer and refuge, occupies the central part of the story. Dr. B. has started to play chess with himself in solitary confinement, when he was arrested by Gestapo. During his game against Czentovic he breaks down. "But are we not already guilty of an insulting limitation in calling chess a game? Isn't it also a science, and art, hovering between these two categories like Muhammad's coffin hovered between heaven and earth?" As in Vladimir Nabokov's novel The Defense (1930), chess becomes an allegory of alienation, in which people, estranged from life, move like characters on a giant chessboard.