Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bobby Fischer Comes Home: The Final Years in Iceland, a Saga of Friendship and Lost Illusions by Helgi Olafsson

     Yet another book on Fischer and it's one some people loved while others hated it. There are no games and it covers the events leading up to his incarceration in Japan, how he arrived in Iceland and how he spent his time after he got there. 
     Olafsson and Fischer developed a friendship and they spent many hours together during his 1972 match with Spassky and after Fischer arrived in Iceland. Fischer came to be adored by Icelanders and as a result they decided to help him when the US government sought to extradite him for violating US economic sanctions. They formed an "RJF Committee" that got the Icelandic government to send diplomatic cables on Fischer's behalf, but they were ignored. After his arrest in Japan, the Icelandic parliament declared Fischer a citizen.
     Olafsson considered Fischer his friend, but guess what? If you guessed Fischer turned on him, you'd be right. 
     What's wrong with the book? One reviewer wrote that it exposes how conniving the U.S. government is.  That shouldn't surprise anybody, but what country's government isn't? Japan doesn't come off very well either. The book goes into great detail on how they, for no reason, made an unprovoked, physical assault on Fischer that he claimed almost killed him. Of course, when he was attacked Fischer did what he had always done...he bit his “attackers.” See my Blog post, Bobby Fischer Was a Biter.
     Mostly it's boring reading. As Jeremy Silman noted, Fischer had no life outside of chess and his time in Iceland seemed to revolve around going out to eat and hanging out in a bookstore. 
     A few have complained about the writing as being somewhat stilted and therefore, if you are a native English speaker, poorly written. That didn't bother me. 
     In the end, the book is filled with the same old, boring Fischer rants against the United States and, to use Fischer's favorite epithet, filthy Jews, communists and almost everybody else he ever came in contact with. It gets old in a hurry. 
     Olafsson describes meals with Fischer and his role as an agent for Fischer when he tried to arrange a Fischer-Anand match. Who cares about Fischer's meals and one wonders why Olafsson knowingly wasted his time trying to negotiate anything on Fischer's behalf. 
     Is this book worth reading? Yes and no. It was pretty much a waste of money on one hand, but on the other, reading it was like seeing a bad car just can't look away from all the gore. If you're really strapped for cash or don't think you'd be interested in Fischer trivia or if there's another chess book you think you'd like more, then you can save your money on this one.  
     On the other hand if you don't mind spending $15 on a book that describes what you already know about Fischer's personality, you like reading about one person's misery, you didn't live during Fischer's final saga, or you are just a Fischer fan, then go ahead and buy it.

No comments:

Post a Comment