×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Embers
     

Embers

5.0 3
by Carol Janeway (Translator), Carol Brown Janeway (Translator)
 
The rediscovery of a masterpiece of Central European literature originally published in Budapest in 1942 and un-
known to modern readers until last year. An extraordinary novel about a triangular relationship, about love, friendship, and fidelity, about betrayal, pride, and true nobility.

In a castle at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, an old

Overview

The rediscovery of a masterpiece of Central European literature originally published in Budapest in 1942 and un-
known to modern readers until last year. An extraordinary novel about a triangular relationship, about love, friendship, and fidelity, about betrayal, pride, and true nobility.

In a castle at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, an old aristocrat waits to greet the friend he has not seen for forty-one years. In the course of this one night, from dinner until dawn, the two men will fight a duel of words and silences, of stories, of accusations and evasions, that will encompass their entire lives and that of a third person, missing from the candlelit dining hall—the now dead chatelaine of the castle. The last time the three of them sat together was in this room, after a stag hunt in the forest. The year was 1900. No game was shot that day, but the reverberations were cataclysmic. And the time of reckoning has finally arrived.

Already a great international best-seller, Embers is a magnificent addition to world literature in the English language.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
Masterly and lovely, evoking the memory of unspoken passions.
Publishers Weekly
Two very old men Konrad and Henrik, "the General" once the closest of friends, meet in 1940 in the fading splendor of the General's Hungarian castle, after being separated for 41 years, to ponder the events that divided them. This 1942 novel by a forgotten Hungarian novelist, rediscovered and lucidly and beautifully translated, is a brilliant and engrossing tapestry of friendship and betrayal, set against a backdrop of prewar splendor. In the flickering glow and shadow of candlelight, the General recalls the past with neither violence nor mawkish sentiment, but with restrained passion. The two met as boys, Henrik the confident scion of a wealthy, aristocratic family, and Konrad the sensitive son of an impoverished baron. Of their closeness, the General says, "the eros of friendship has no need of the body." When they are young men, Konrad introduces Henrik to Krisztina, the remarkable daughter of a crippled musician. Henrik and Krisztina marry, and the two keep up a close friendship with Konrad, until one morning, on a hunt, Henrik senses that Konrad is about to fire at him. Nothing happens, but Konrad leaves at once, vanishing. For the first time, the General goes to his friend's rooms, and then his wife unexpectedly comes in. He never speaks to her again. Capturing the glamour of the fin de si cle era, as well as its bitter aftermath, M rai eloquently explores the tight and twisted bonds of friendship. (Oct. 2) Forecast: M rai's history he was born in 1900, rose to fame in Hungary in the 1930s, fled the country after WWII and committed suicide in San Diego in 1989, virtually forgotten is at least as compelling as the story he tells here. Embers has already been published to much acclaimin Europe 250,000 copies sold in Italy and 230,000 copies in Germany and is licensed in 18 countries around the world. Feature coverage is to be expected, and though sales may be less explosive on these shores, Knopf's plan to translate future works by M rai should encourage a reappraisal of the writer's place in literary history. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Published in 1942, as Europe lay dying, this novel was lost until recently, even as its author fled to the United States and eventually committed suicide in 1989. The entire novel is a conversation between two old friends but carries the tautness and reckless power of a half-dozen action novels. Earlier in the 20th century, as the old general prowls around his crumbling castle, he is surprised by a message that he will be visited by his old friend Konrad, whom he has not seen for 41 years. The two had been in military school together, and though Konrad was much poorer and of a distinctly unmilitary temperament, the two bonded instantly. But something terrible has happened to separate them something that clearly involves the general's wife, Krisztina and as the general talks and talks to his ever more reluctant guest, the secret is delicately revealed. Of course, it does involve a daring love between Konrad and Krisztina, but that is not really what is at stake, as M rai imaginatively reveals. Questions of honor, truth, and friendship are entertained here, and though the novel inevitably has an old-fashioned feel, the questions it raises are timeless. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/01.] Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375407567
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/2001
Edition description:
1 AMER ED
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 7.84(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

In the morning, the old general spent a considerable time in the wine cellars with his winegrower inspecting two casks of wine that had begun to ferment. He had gone there at first light, and it was past eleven o'clock before he had finished drawing off the wine and returned home. Between the columns of the veranda, which exuded a musty smell from its damp flagstones, his gamekeeper was standing waiting for him, holding a letter.

"What do you want?"the General demanded brusquely, pushing back his broad-brimmed straw hat to reveal a flushed face. For years now, he had neither opened nor read a single letter. The mail went to the estate manager's office, to be sorted and dealt with by one of the stewards.

"It was brought by a messenger,"said the gamekeeper, standing stiffly at attention.

The General recognized the handwriting. Taking the letter and putting it in his pocket, he stepped into the cool of the entrance hall and, without uttering a word, handed the gamekeeper both his stick and his hat. He removed a pair of spectacles from his cigar case, went over to the window where light insinuated itself through the slats of the blinds, and began to read.

"Wait,"he said over his shoulder to the gamekeeper, who was about to leave the room to dispose of cane and hat.

He crumpled the letter into his pocket. "Tell Kalman to harness up at six o'clock. The Landau, because there's rain in the air. And he is to wear full-dress livery. You too,"he said with unexpected force, as if suddenly angered. "Everything must shine. The carriage and harness are to be cleaned immediately. Then put on your livery,and seat yourself next to Kalman on the coachbox. Understood?"

"Yes, Excellence,"said the gamekeeper, looking his master directly in the eye. "At six o'clock.""At half past six you will leave,"said the General, and then appeared to be making some calculation, for his lips moved silently. "You will go to the White Eagle. All you are to say is that I have sent you, and the carriage for the Captain is waiting. Repeat."

The gamekeeper repeated the words. Then the General raised his hand, as if he had just thought of something else, and he looked up at the ceiling but didn't say anything and went upstairs to the second floor. The gamekeeper, still frozen to attention, watched him, unblinking, and waited until the thickset, broad-shouldered figure disappeared around the turn of the stone balustrade.

The General went into his room, washed his hands, and stepped over to his high, narrow standing desk; arranged on its surface of unstained green felt were pens, ink, and a perfectly aligned stack of those notebooks covered in black-and-white-checked oilcloth commonly used by schoolchildren for their home- work. In the middle of the desk stood a green-shaded lamp, which the General switched on, as the room was dark. On the other side of the closed blinds, in the scorched, withered garden, summer ignited a last blaze like an arsonist setting the fields on fire in senseless fury before making his escape. The General took out the letter, carefully smoothed the paper, set his glasses on his nose and placed the sheet under the bright light to read the straight short lines of angular handwriting, his arms folded behind his back.

There was a calendar hanging on the wall. Its fist-sized numbers showed August 14. The General looked up at the ceiling and counted: August 14. July 2. He was calculating how much time had elapsed between that long-ago day and today. "Forty-one years,"he said finally, half aloud. Recently he had been talking to himself even when he was alone in the room. "Forty years,"he then said, confused, and blushed like a school- boy who's stumbled in the middle of a lesson, tilted his head back and closed his watering eyes. His neck reddened and bulged over the maize-yellow collar of his jacket. "July 2, 1899, was the day of the hunt,"he murmured, then fell silent. Propping his elbows on the desk like a student at his studies, he went back to staring anxiously at the letter with its brief handwritten message. "Forty-one,"he said again, hoarsely. "And forty-three days. Yes, exactly."

He seemed calmer now, and began to walk up and down. The room had a vaulted ceiling, supported by a central column. It had once been two rooms, a bedroom, and a dressing room.

Many years ago--he thought only in decades, anything more exact upset him, as if he might be reminded of things he would rather forget--he had had the wall between the two rooms torn down. Only the column holding up the central vault remained. The castle had been built two hundred years earlier by an army supplier who sold oats to the Austrian cavalry and in course of time was promoted to the nobility. The General had been born here in this room.

In those days the room farthest back, the dark one that looked onto the garden and estate offices, had been his mother's bedroom, while the lighter, airier room had been the dressing room.

For decades now, since he had moved into this wing of the building, and torn down the dividing wall, this large, shadowy chamber had replaced the two rooms. Seventeen paces from the door to the bed. Eighteen paces from the wall on the garden side to the balcony. Both distances counted off exactly.

He lived here as an invalid lives within the space he has learned to inhabit. As if the room had been tailored to his body. Years passed without him setting foot in the other wing of the castle, in which salon after salon opened one into the next, first green, then blue, then red, all hung with gold chandeliers.

The windows in the south wing gave onto the park with its chestnut trees that stood in a semicircle in front of protruding balustrades held up by fat stone angels, and bowed down over the balconies in spring in all their dark-green magnificence, lit with pink flowering candles. When he went out, it was to the cellars or into the forest or--every morning, rain or shine, even in winter--to the trout pond. And when he came back, he went through the entrance hall and up to his bedroom, and it was here that he ate all his meals.

"So he's come back,"he said aloud, standing in the middle of the room. "Forty-one years and forty-three days later."

These words seemed suddenly to exhaust him, as if he had only just understood the enormousness of forty-one years and forty-three days. He swayed, then sat down in the leather armchair with its worn back. On the little table within reach of his hand was a little silver bell, which he rang.

"Tell Nini to come up here,"he said to the servant. And then, politely, "If she'd be so kind."

Meet the Author

Sándor Márai was born in Kassa, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1900. He rose to fame as one of the leading literary novelists in Hungary in the 1930s. Profoundly antifascist, he survived World War II, but persecution by the Communists drove him from the country in 1948, first to Italy and then to the United States. Márai committed suicide in San Diego in 1989. He is the author of a significant body of work, which Knopf is translating into English.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Embers 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A powerful message on the meaning of friendship -- understandings and misunderstandings. A lesson that guilt is in the intention and not in the act! A very powerful story and one that should be on everyone's home library shelf.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was confusingly obstreperous and masterfully obsequious to the nature of upright and moralistic conflagrations. It manuvers the plebe and patrician alike in a kind of bilious plebesite. It makes the transfluvial lesser vicors bleak to say the least!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mesmerizing, encompassing read. It is the story of one night, when the passion of long gone times is still found glowing, just as the ember that had been left there for long hours. A 'new' master of literature is thus rediscovered