Died Paolo Maurensig author of the ‘Lüneburg Variant’- Corriere.it

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The latest books by Paolo Maurensig, a polite and shy writer who died yesterday in Udine at the age of 78 (he was born in Gorizia in 1943), were short stories, metaliterary apologists with a story in history, in which he reflected, among other things, on craft of writing. Rediscovered manuscripts, gothic atmospheres, the devil maliciously disguised as an editor (for both it is a question of bringing out from each the worst that is hidden in his soul) in a country where it seems, Goethe stays, build the plot of The devil in the drawer (Einaudi 2018); a Venetian game of mirrors with an alleged unpublished work by Henry James and the figure of Constance Woolson, who died in the lagoon after throwing herself from a window in Palazzo Semitecolo are the backbone of Pimpernel. A love story (Einaudi 2020).


And then there are chess, which Mauresing had known as a childplaying with his sister. Before devoting himself to writing he had been a commercial agent, he had lived for a long time in Milan where he had worked in publishing, he had also been councilor for culture in Udine, the city where he had lived for years and where, in recent days, he was hospitalized .

Personal relationships, writing, history but above all the theme of Evil, his power and his transformations, were the themes he loved to frequent, preferring unusual, sometimes chilling plots, based on apparently inexplicable mysteries. Themes somehow obscured by that chess demon who in 1993 inspired his first successful novel, published at the age of fifty, after several editorial refusals:The Lneburg variant (Adelphi), which would become the literary case of the year, but also a longseller translated into over twenty languages.

The variant involved at one point the sacrifice of a horse in exchange for only two pawns, but with this maneuver the white man was prevented from securing his king, thus starting to threaten him, explained Maurensig in that novel in which, following the death of a rich German businessman who acts as a misleading prologue, he had concealed a complex human story set during the dark years of World War II. A story (which had evoked references to Svevo, Michelstaedter, Durrenmatt, Zweig) where the stakes for the two chess players facing each other – a Nazi officer and a talented Jewish player – the life or death of many people, but even the victory or defeat of opposing worldviews.

The game of chess, addressed in writing by mixing truth and fiction, a look at history and reflection on the great themes of existence, letting himself be fascinated by the life (and sometimes death) of the great protagonists, it was the writer’s magnificent obsession that put him at the center of other works. On the other hand, the most violent sport that exists said the Russian Garri Kasparov and in Maurensig’s novels this subtle paradox emerges clearly, often linked to real events.

A gallery of champions and protagonists runs through his books: in Shadow theory(Adelphi 2015), to mysteriously die Alexandre Alekhine, found lifeless in 1946 in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal, where he was invited for a meeting, suffocated, it was said, by a mouthful of raw meat eaten in front of the chessboard while simulating the moves to face the encounter with the challenger, the young Alexandr Alexandrovic. Even ne The Archangel of Chess (Mondadori 2013) the protagonist is not a fictional character but the American Paul Morphy, born in nineteenth-century New Orleans, forced to cross the ocean to challenge the European champions, who died of a stroke in the bathtub.

The novel story of Malik Mir Suktan Khan, a dazzling glow that precedes the deepest darkness, a poor illiterate Indian, a pariah who, kissed by an extraordinary talent, will become the best chess player of the Thirties by beating the Cuban champion Jos Raul Casablanca, at the base of The game of the gods(Einaudi 2019), where the chessboard on which international and British imperialism is also played. In the short storyThe last cross (Barbera editore 2012), there is a young priest, called to lead a modest parish on the Tyrolean plateau of Renon towards the end of the nineteenth century who, thanks to the discovery of an old chessboard, is seduced, as well as by the torments of flesh, with the diabolical charm of the game.

But in his novels built with a classic implant and a controlled style, on which the Central European spirit blows, even in certain reticences of writing, Maurensig had often gone beyond the chess passion, while maintaining a certain complexity in the narrative construction. In his second novel, Reverse Canon (Mondadori 1996, a title taken from the technical language of musical composition), from which the homonymous film directed by Ricky Tognazzi was taken, the element of damnation are no longer pedestrians and horses, but an ancient violin with the particularity of have an anthropomorphic head instead of the traditional snail. The story is enclosed in the intertwining of two stories: a writer who met the owner of the violin and later doubted his existence and the violinist who inherited the instrument.

A suggestion, that given by the music that will probably also return in the new book that the writer had recently delivered to Einaudi, The Razumovsky Quartet, and that it will come out posthumously.

May 29, 2021 (change May 29, 2021 | 18:55)

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