Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Review: “White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War Was Fought on the Chess Board", by Daniel Johnson



Daniel Johnson, “White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War Was Fought on the Chess Board,” Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

For something that is neither war, per se, nor sexual love, chess has supplied fine fodder for literature. To establish that, you have to look no further than to classics like Vladmir Nabokov’s "The Defense” and Stefan Zweig’s "Chess Story”. For more recent examples, you can consult Walter Tevis’s "The Queen's Gambit" (1984), Paolo Maurensig’s "The Luneburg Variations” (1997), and Ronan Bennett’s "Zugzwang" (2007). These are gripping fictions, and as indebted to chess for their plots and character studies as “War and Peace”, say, was to the Napoleonic Wars, or Faulkner’s novels were to his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. In fact, writers of all kinds resort to chess as if it were a sort of communal Yoknapatawpha.