A terrible bargain has been struck in the Vilna Ghetto. The lives of the ghetto’s children are at stake. Isaac, a young Jew, will play Nazi Commandant Schoger in a chess match. If Isaac wins, Schoger will shoot him, but the children will be saved from the death camps. If Isaac loses, Schoger will show Isaac mercy, but will send the children off to die. Will Isaac be able to pull off a stalemate?
Country Focus: Lithuania (Lietuva in Lithuanian)
Stalemate: A Novel
By Icchokas Meras
Translated by Jonas Zdanys
Originally published in Lithuania as Lygiosios Trunka Akimirka in 1963.
My edition: Other Press, 2005
About the author: In 1941, Meras’s family perished in the holocaust. Only seven years old at the time, Meras survived by chance and was taken in by a Lithuanian family. Stalemate was the award-winning author’s most famous novel.
Everyone understands about weapons. We don’t have to discuss them.
I understand why it’s forbidden to bring food into the ghetto. Schoger wants us all to go hungry.
I understand why we are not allowed to bring in clothing. They want us to be ragged and tattered so we will be cold.
But why has Schoger forbidden flowers?
I can’t understand that.
A flower. A thin stalk, colored blossoms, and an affecting smell.
Who can forbid flowers?