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Stalemate [Paperback]

Icchokas Meras , Jonas Zdanys

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Book Description

Nov. 17 2005
A classic of Holocaust literature from “one of the great masters of the short novel.”
—The New Yorker

In the Vilna Ghetto during World War II, Nazi Commandant Schoger demands that all children be sent to the death camp. When Abraham Lipman pleads with him to spare their lives, Schoger reconsiders, and tells Lipman there will be a chess match between himself and Lipman’s only surviving son, Isaac, a chess prodigy. If Isaac wins, the children will live, but Isaac will die. If Isaac loses, the children will die, but Isaac will live. Only a draw will save the ghetto from this terrible predicament.

The chess game begins: a nightmarish contest played over the course of several evenings, witnessed by an audience impotent to act, staking the lives of their children on a stalemate. This is a moving story of a father and a son who shame their cruel perpetrator with their dignity, spirit, and extraordinary courage. Stalemate speaks to the power of humor even under the direst circumstances. As a parable that gives voice to the unspeakable, Stalemate is an antidote to despair.

“Gripping . . . a truly memorable work.”
—Booklist

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; Reprint edition (Nov. 17 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590511565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590511565
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.1 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #722,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

SS Commandant Adolf Schroger, overseeing the Vilna Jewish ghetto, challenges 17½-year-old Isaac Lipman to a chess match with tauntingly barbarous stakes: if Isaac wins, Schroger will kill him, but all of the children in the ghetto will live; if he loses, the children will die, except for Isaac. A stalemate is thus the only desirable outcome. Isaac is his father Abraham's last surviving son; the two show love, strength and composure in the face of fear. Isaac's 16-year-old love interest, Esther, is lovely and sweet, but carrying her own already tragic past. There are many other stories, sometimes extraneous, of fathers and mothers, the missing and the dead, close friends and siblings. Born in Lithuania in 1934, Meras was hidden by a rural family during WWII; his family was murdered by the SS. In 1972, Meras emigrated to Israel, and most of his many novels center on WWII. The plot of Stalemate, out of print for 20 years, may seem hokey, but it's precisely the sort of random, ham-fisted horror that the Nazis routinely came up with, and Isaac's quest to merge cleverness and humility in all aspects of his life, under extreme duress, is winning. (Nov. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Icchokas Meras

Icchokas Meras was born in 1934 in Kelme, a town in northwestern Lithuania. His novels, short fiction, essays, and plays have been widely published and translated. Meras has been the recipient of many literary awards including the International Rememberance Award for Excellence and Distinction in the Literature of the Holocaust, for Stalemate. He currently lives in Holon, Israel.


Jonas Zdanys

Jonas Zdanys is the author of twenty-nine books, twenty-six of them collections of his own poetry and of his translations from Lithuanian. He serves presently as Chief Academic Officer in the Connecticut Department of Higher Education.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars packs a punch you wont forget July 8 2006
By lisatheratgirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The review by Karen Breda is pretty comprehensive, I dont know how much there is to add, but this short novel really impressed me. I've read a lot of books about the Holocaust, both fiction and nonfiction, and this story, told as a simple parable, is one of the most powerful. There is the story set in the Vilna ghetto and the Biblical parallel of Abraham and Isaac. The author names the father and son Abraham and Isaac. This is a book that is not to be read literally for plot, although the author apparently survived the Vilna ghetto. Atrocities committed by the Nazis are more hinted at than described, which to me makes the story more effective. I also think the author was showing people as they should act, rather than as they may actually have acted. With each chapter he raises a moral dilemma. If you are looking for a realistic story about Vilna during the Second World War, I'd say try Anya by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. That is not the intent of this book, but it is thought provoking, comparing life to a game of chess.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just for chess players June 27 2012
By Meaghan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was concerned that I wouldn't like this book, since I don't know the first thing about chess. But happily, this was not a problem. The book had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, wondering what was going to happen, and I was interested not only in Isaac's fate but in all the minor characters too -- Janek in particular was fascinating. My only complaint is that all the many POVs in the story sounded the same -- which may be a problem with the translation more than the original writing. I can't read Lithuanian so who knows.

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