Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig

Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig

Italian fiction

Original title – Il gioco degli dèi

Translator Anne Milano Appel

Source – review copy

Paolo Maurensig first published a book in the sixties but it wasn’t till his second novel the Luneberg Variation that I had reviewed very early on in this blog in fact just over ten years ago. That book came out in 1993 and since then he has written a string of successful novels. That this book like this book revolved around Chess and the world of chess. Because if in fact if there is a master of the novels that involves chess it would be Paolo Maurensig as it says on the front cover he had written four books that had chess involved when he felt drawn to writing this book. The novel is partly based on the real chess player Mir Sultan Khan.

In past years, I had already collected quite a bit of material about Sultan Khan; photos and articles from newspapers dating back to the thirties when he had arrived in Europe in the service of Maharaja Sir Malik Umar Hayat Khan. After four years of successful matches, howeer his career was suddenly interrupted, and once he’d left the circuit of the great international tounaents, he’d been quickly forgotten, No one knew what he might have done in the meantime, and had it not been for the “scandal” related to the legacy of Cecilla Abott, one of the wealthiest women in America.

How did he come to America wjat happened over those years?

The book finds Norman La Motta a writer from the Washington Post that had been sent to cover the growing trouble between India and Pakistan in the mid 1960s. He comes across the old man as he was then Mir Sultan Khan a chess master that had come from Punjab this is the opening into us finding out the life story of Mir Sultan Khan from his humble background as he described how fragile that life was at the edge such as when the Elephants got spooked. He is taught at a very early age the Indian form of Chess Chaturanga from being 9 he eventually comes to the attention of the local Landlord a Maharaja who decides he wants to see if the young boy now becoming a man can play western chess just as well as its Indian counterpart. He is just as good at the other version and this leads the village boy to the heart of Western chess and is brought by the Maharaja to England to beat the best of the western players. but as this is just in the pre-war years he is drawn onto the dark side of world war two where they want to use his mind to build strategies for the war how does he get on how did he end up in the US and how far can he get in the chess world.

That was how I came to move to Delhi, to enter the maharaja’s court as a servant. Going from the humble clay and bamboo hut, where I had lived until then, to the magnificence of his residence seemed like a dream to me. All my miserable clothes were replaced with silks and fabrics ablaze with bright colours. I no longer moved amid the dust and dung of the poor village in which I was born, but in the midst of unimaginable luxury. Sir Umar Khans attendant – genrallyyoung boys from age fifteen up – did not have soecific duties, but had to be able to anticipate his every need and desire: to bring him a thrist-quenching beverage at the right time, arrange a pillow behind his back was comfortable, or cool him with a fan when he appeared to be suffering from the heat

He is let into the Sultans world but with a cost !!

This book like his earlier book is set in the time around the war the earlier book used a game of chess between a younger and older chess master here we see the culture clash of east and west as the situation. It is also a classic tale of someone getting to the top from nothing and also the outsider what Maurensig does is weave those stories together through La Motta meeting and wanting to know the turban-wearing chess master end up in New York but also the journey he had taken from Punjab a lowly stable boy to chess master. The real character was a great player of his time in fact the Elo ranking of him meant he would have beaten most players easily. He was never a master or grandmaster maybe another nod towards the clash of culture and how he was viewed as a lesser player when he came with his Maharaja to play the best of the west but then shock people with his talent. Have you read any of his books ? he had now had a couple of books come out from World editions.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: That was the month that was Feb 2021 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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