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When your fate and your destiny are playing game of chess they never look at the board.

In this life, you are either a player or a chess piece. To be a player, you need to take responsibility for your decisions. Will you help another one even if you are helpless yourself? Will you betray your friend to save his life? Once you enter the game, you must keep playing it. It doesn’t matter if you are too young, or cannot walk, or if you do not know the rules. Do not look at the board. Keep playing.

The “Chess” is the second book of Rubén David González Gallego. It was first published in Russian under the title “I am sitting on the shore.” In 2019 this book won the Best European Book (Fiction) at the first-ever European Chess Award Ceremony.


Michael and Ruben are paralyzed. Michael has myopathy and Ruben has cerebral palsy. Both are orphans. Soviet Union is what's outside their window. Neither one can lift a shovel or a house painter's brush. The state machine knows what to do with this ballast: adjust the clock on their lifespans and send them straight from orphanage to the nursing home - to die.

Ruben and Michael are roommates. Ruben, being "healthier", does all the physical work while Michael is all about strategizing and planning ahead. It is difficult, almost impossible, but they have no choice.

How does one live and what does one think when there is no future? What is there to hold onto in this world that is killing you slowly and how do you keep those thoughts of death to haunting all the way to the "third floor"? With death staring him squarely in the face, Michael completely immerses himself in mathematics and formal logic, while Ruben, a sweet and naive teenage boy, studies foreign languages and lives vicariously through texts of fiction.

"Chess" is a coming-of-age story as told by a grown-up Ruben. Again, the author describes a piece of reality that is difficult to believe and almost impossible to come to terms with. But it is not only a portion of Ruben's life. It is a piece of history of the country that disappeared forever from the map – the USSR.

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