Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Theory of Shadows

Theory of Shadows

A Novel

Paolo Maurensig; Translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




The strange circumstances surrounding the death of the world chess champion and alleged Nazi collaborator Alexander Alekhine, as investigated by a literary grand master

On the morning of March 24, 1946, the world chess champion Alexander Alekhine—“sadist of the chess world,” renowned for his eccentric behavior as well as the ruthlessness of his playing style—was found dead in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. He was fully dressed and wearing an overcoat, slumped back in a chair, in front of a meal, a chessboard just out of reach. The doctor overseeing the autopsy certified that Alekhine died of asphyxiation due to a piece of meat stuck in his larynx and assured the world that there was absolutely no evidence of suicide or foul play.

Some, of course, have commented that the photos of the corpse look suspiciously theatrical, as though staged. Others have wondered why Alekhine would have sat down to his dinner in a hot room while wearing a heavy overcoat. And what about all these rumors concerning Alekhine’s activities during World War II? Did he really pen a series of articles on the inherent inferiority of Jewish chess players? Can he really be seen in photographs with high-ranking Nazi officials? And as for his own homeland, is it true that the Russians considered him a traitor, as well as a possible threat to the new generation of supposedly superior Soviet chess masters?

With the atmosphere of a thriller, the insight of a poem, and a profound knowledge of the world of chess (“the most violent sport there is,” according to the Russian world champion Garry Kasparov), Paolo Maurensig’s Theory of Shadows leads us through the life and death of Alekhine: not so much trying to figure out whodunit as using the story of one infuriating and unapologetic genius to tease out “that which the novel alone can discover.”




FROM HIS ROOM on the first floor he came down to the still-deserted lobby—deserted as it had been the day before, the week before, the month before … Every morning, he hoped to see a row of suitcases...


Praise for Theory of Shadows

"In this slim yet complex novel, Maurensig returns to themes familiar from his debut, The Lüneburg
Variation (1997): fascism and chess. In 1946, world chess champion Alexander Alekhine was found dead
in his hotel room in Portugal, the official cause listed as choking on his dinner. The scene screamed coverup,
and Alekhine’s life provided a bevy of murder motivations." —Bethany Latham, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Paolo Maurensig; Translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel

Paolo Maurensig was born in 1943 in Gorizia, Italy. His first novel, The Lüneburg Variation, was a bestseller in Italy and an international sensation. He lives in Udine.

Anne Milano Appel is an award-winning translator whose translations from the Italian include Andrea Canobbio’s Three Light-Years, Goliarda Sapienza’s The Art of Joy, Claudio Magris’s Blindly, and Giovanni Arpino’s Scent of a Woman. Most recently her work was awarded the 2015 Italian Prose in Translation Award.

Paolo Maurensig

Angelo Fanutti

Paolo Maurensig

Anne Milano Appel

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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