Carel Mann (1871-1928) was born in Amsterdam, as the son of a butcher. He got his own butcher’s shop in Haarlem at the beginning of the twentieth century. According to an anecdote, he used to compose with meat balls on the black and white tiles of his shop. A small inheritance of his mother allowed him to stop his trade and live the life of a poor tramp. He became mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. His illusion was a vampire, who sucked his red blood cells at night. At daytime the vampire had the image of a human being. Mann ‘recognised’ his enemy on the boat from Marseilles to Algiers and fired a revolver. Fortunately he missed. He was sentenced to receive mental treatment, and went to an institution in Ermelo. Patients were locked up inside. Outside they were chained. When he moved to Geel, his treatment became more humane. After his flight, no measures were taken. He started to compose endgame studies in Amsterdam. King chases became the main theme.

Mann’s obsession with king chases could have been based on paranoia. In the Freudian version, the naughty black man(n) is chased by the white queen and her helper to every corner of the board. Counter-play is hardly possible. On the forced way to the fatal end, an occasional quiet move underlines fate. However, fear of women was not his obsession. Some paranoia is usual for a chess player, because of the illusion that the opponent wants to hurt you. Mann illustrated the paranoia of chess.

These texts stem from: 

Jan van Reek & Henk van Donk, Carel Mann, Margraten 1991.


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