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Overview

Originally published in 1942 and now rediscovered to international acclaim, this taut and exquisitely structured novel by the Hungarian master Sandor Marai conjures the melancholy glamour of a decaying empire and the disillusioned wisdom of its last heirs.

In a secluded woodland castle an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend but who he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions. They will exhume the memory of their friendship and that of the General’s beautiful, long-dead wife. And they will return to the time the three of them last sat together following a hunt in the nearby forest--a hunt in which no game was taken but during which something was lost forever. Embers is a classic of modern European literature, a work whose poignant evocation of the past also seems like a prophetic glimpse into the moral abyss of the present

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375707421
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/13/2002
Series: Vintage International
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 249,073
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Sándor Márai was born in Kassa, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1900, and died in San Diego in 1989. 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, then to the United States. He is the author of a body of work now being rediscovered and which Knopf is translating into English.

A NOTE ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Carol Brown Janeway's translations include Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments, Marie de Hennezel's Intimate Death, Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, Jan Philipp Reemtsma's In the Cellar, Hans-Ulrich Treichel's Lost, Zvi Kolitz's Yosl Rakover Talks to God, and Benjamin Lebert's Crazy.

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."

Reading Group Guide

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

“As masterly and lovely a novel as one could ask for. . . . Embers is perfect.” —The Washington Post Book World

Originally written in 1942 by the well-regarded Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai, Embers was translated into English in 2001 and became an international bestseller. The following introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography are intended to enhance your group’s reading of this exciting new literary discovery in which the classic formula of a love triangle is manipulated into an original and exquisite tale of honor, friendship, betrayal, and declining aristocracy.

1. What makes the bonds of a “friendship that reaches back to childhood” so strong that “death itself cannot undo” it [pp. 141–2]? If friendship is, in fact, “a duty,” as Henrik asserts [p. 110], what is the nature of the “duty” between Henrik and Konrad? Did one or the other fail in this obligation, and if so, how? Was Konrad “faithless” [p. 112]?

2. What was the “debt” that one of them feels toward the other after Henrik meets Konrad’s parents and learns the truth about Konrad’s background [p. 47]? How does this realization change the nature of their friendship? Was this event the turning point in their friendship?

3. Henrik says, “One would need to know why all this happened. And where the boundary lies between two people. The boundary of betrayal. . . . And also, where in all this my guilt lies” [p. 169]. Of what is Henrik guilty? If Henrik’s twice-made assertion that the guilt is “in the intention” [pp. 112, 139–140] is true, which was Konrad’s greatest offense: his intention to kill Henrik, his affair with Krisztina, or his abandonment of their friendship? Or, as Henrik speculates, was both men’s betrayal of Krisztina the greatest offense of all [p. 192]?

4. On more than one occasion, the men allude to the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Referring to their past as soldiers, Konrad says, “What we swore to uphold no longer exists” [p. 93], and Henrik later speculates further that “Perhaps this entire way of life which we have known since birth, this house, this dinner, even the words we have used this evening to discuss the questions of our lives, perhaps they all belong to the past” [p. 182]. In what ways is the novel an elegy to the past, to a lost way of life? Can the course of Henrik and Konrad’s friendship be read as a metaphor for the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire?

5. Márai writes, “And because of their friendship, each forgave the other’s original sin: wealth on the one hand and poverty on the other” [p. 61]. How do the different circumstances of their births contribute to Henrik and Konrad’s separation? Which is the greater sin in this friendship–wealth or poverty? What kind of society allows for this comparison of wealth and poverty to original sin? Is this a comparison that would hold true in all societies?

6. Konrad’s differences, according to Henrik and his father, made him unsuited to the career of a soldier [pp. 52–4]. The implication is that Henrik, by contrast, was eminently suited to the career of a soldier. But is the portrait of the hardened general consistent with the young Henrik who nearly died in Paris because he “needed love” [p. 29], and who wanted to be poet [p. 30]? And if it was actually Henrik’s personality that was not suited to the military, could it have been Henrik who envied Konrad his differences, rather than Konrad who envied Henrik his birthright?

7. Henrik says: “There are worse things that suffering and death . . . it is worse to lose one’s self-respect. . . . Self-respect is what gives a person his or her intrinsic value” [p. 190]. Does Henrik retain his self-respect by adhering to the noble “male virtues: silence, solitude, the inviolability of one’s word, and women” [p. 69]? What is lost in the preservation of self-respect? Does Henrik have any regrets about the way he has chosen to live his life?

8. What motivated Konrad to introduce Henrik to his parents and their poverty? Was it the same motivation that made Krisztina want to keep a diary—the fear that “life will fill with something that can no longer be shared, a genuine secret, indescribable, unutterable” [p. 160]? Is it this common trait that drives Konrad and Krisztina together?

9. What is the nature of the revenge Krisztina achieves by dying? Is this different from the revenge that Henrik seeks from his meeting with Konrad, and if so, how [p. 182]?

10. What is the truth that Henrik seeks from Konrad [p. 93]? Does Henrik gain the insight for which he’s looking, or did he somehow already have it? Is Konrad’s refusal to answer Henrik’s question on p. 204 tantamount to a confession, or does it reveal something else? By throwing Krisztina’s diary into the fire, is Henrik acknowledging that he already knows the truth or indicating that it is not in the diary at all [p. 205]?

11. In the society of Konrad and Henrik’s youth, “[F]ifty million people found their security in the feeling that their Emperor was in bed every night before midnight and up again before five, sitting by candlelight at his desk in an American rush-bottomed chair, while everyone else who had pledged their loyalty to him was obeying the customs and the laws. Naturally true obedience required a deeper commitment than that prescribed by laws. Obedience had to be rooted in the heart: that was what really counted. People had to be certain that everything was in its place” [p. 56]. How did this society foster Henrik’s personality? Without the influence of such an environment, how might he have behaved after Konrad’s departure?

12. How do the Europeans differ from the natives in Konrad’s account of his life in the tropics [pp. 80–83] Do these stereotypes date the novel? How do they play to modern political sensibilities?

13. What qualities do the Arabs display that Henrik admires [p. 123]? Do Arabs embrace the truth about man’s natural instincts to kill while Westerners simply disguise it [pp. 124–9]? Does Henrik’s character embody an element of Western hypocrisy?

14. Music plays a significant role in the novel, especially in the power it holds over Henrik’s mother, Konrad, and Krisztina [p. 178]. Why its influence inherently dangerous [p. 51]? Is there a similarity between the symbolism and meaning of the hunt for Henrik and his father and the power of music over the others [p. 122]?

15. How does Henrik’s parents’ marriage influence his own marriage? What might the King have “said to the young wife who had come from a foreign country and wept as she danced” [p. 24]?

16. What happens to Henrik’s mother when she moves from the city to the castle deep in the forest [pp. 20–22]? How is Henrik affected as he moves from his castle in the forest to the city [p. 27]? How do these changes in landscape alter their behavior and highlight their different temperaments? Does Konrad have a similar experience when he moves to the tropics [pp. 80–83]?

17. As Nini and Henrik gaze at the dining room, “All of a sudden the objects seemed to take on meaning, as if to prove that everything in the world acquires significance only in relation to human activity and human destiny” [p. 71]. How does the appearance of the room recall Henrik’s and Krisztina’s view of Konrad’s room forty-one years earlier [p. 166]? What can objects reveal about customs and traditions? About emotions and relationships? What does Henrik’s replacement of Krisztina’s picture in the castle’s portrait gallery signify?

18. One might read Embers as a study of the powers and the limitations of words: the spoken word, as seen in the conversation between Konrad and Henrik, and the written word, as represented by the diary of Krisztina. At one point, Henrik muses: “Sometimes it seems to me that it is precisely the words one utters, or stifles, or writes, that are the issue, if not the only issue” [p. 117]. And later he says:

What can one ask people with words? And what is the value of an answer given in words instead of in the coin of one’s entire life? . . . Not much. . . . There are very few people whose words correspond exactly to the reality of their lives. It may be the rarest thing there is. . . . Nevertheless, one can get closer to reality and the facts by using words, questions and answers” [pp. 163–4].

Do words have inherent power as Henrik proposes? What are the limits of language? How does the power of the written word compare to the power of the spoken word? Significantly, it is not with words that the book ends, but with the kiss between Henrik and Nini, which is “an answer, a clumsy but tender answer to a question that eludes the power of language” [p. 213]. Does this kiss provide the answer to Henrik’s second question?

19. A third-person narrator tells the history of Henrik’s family and his youthful friendship with Konrad, but then the events during and after their last dinner together with Krisztina are recounted from only Henrik’s perspective. How is the reader’s view of the story affected by hearing only his voice for this part of the story and not Konrad’s? How might Konrad have told the story, and how might his point of view have changed the whole tone and focus of the novel?

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Embers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Embers is a feast for the eyes and brain. Why can't more writers write like this? I was swept into the time and culture. I appreciated the writing, the plot; Embers is many cuts above a typical good book. For those who think reading is one of the great joys in life, I recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Embers had me spellbound right up until the end, which disappointed me. If only Marai had given his ending some small, mind-blowing twist, this book would have been more worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a long standing,intimate friendship interrupted by a pathological action and an attempt to deal with it 41 years later. Besides the literary values cited by others, the story evokes many psychiatric issues... While the author describes in details the aggressive acts agains one of the friends(Henrik) and his reactions, nothing is said about the following:the victim anguish and overwhelming feelings of sadness; the horror of his mental pain; the devastating feelings of loneliness due to the physical and emotional loss of the friend and his wife; the injury to his self esteem and the subsequent feelings that no one cares... There is a situation suggestive of a pathological re-enacting of the Oedipal Complex by the friend(Konrad) who disappears(I assume out of guilt/shame) for many years and returns at age 75 to a reunion where he says very little... The author end the story by making us think the common and erroneous belief that detective work and/or being able to have a verbal discharge or confrontation will make every thing well again. I adhere to the psychotherapy teachings that most cases of emotional trauma, a cure may be brought about, usually with the aid of medications, by a process in which the victim experince that his feelingswere underestood by his therapist and eventually identifies with him in coping with life traumas in spite of the emotional scars... Also of interest is to notice that the author knew that emotional damage persist to age 75, and by his suicidal death at age 89 confirms that emotional pain, without treatment, is a life long suffering.
nmaybe More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book in a thrift store because i liked the cover, I'm so glad I did - .Ii found this book to be very profound, and interesting. I have read it twice, which is also very unusual for me.
JurisRex More than 1 year ago
"Embers", by Sandor Marai, is one of the best kept secrets of the World's literature. I was lucky enough to have stumbled across it in a used book store. Other literature has palled in comparison since that fateful day. Written by a master of the craft, Hungarian, Sandor Marai, this novel evokes all the passion and prose that one usually finds in the great masters, such as Turgenev, Dickens, and Tolstoy et al. Longtime friends, turned enemies, are brought to a bar of judgment moment on a stormy Hungarian night in an old Hungarian estate. The penitent, prodigal friend has returned to the estate of his victim and one time friend. During the long night, truths are revealed, and surprises manifested. What results is an intimate introspection of the human soul, its strength and ultimate fragility. This is the finest short novel/novella ever written.
RobertTyler More than 1 year ago
So effective is Márai's evocative prose that, by melding it with his surpassing genius for expressing the ineffable nature of friendship, the author gilds the pages of this flawless narrative with a splendorous and intimate luster
Guest More than 1 year ago
Describes an era lacking in time pressure. The reader is drawn by his own curiosity to continue to follow the scattered bread crumbs of hints and foreshadowing that lead to the final dramatic meeting of the two living and one remembered protagonists. The reader is bombarded by emotional stimulii throughout. The emotional tensions between: wealth and poverty; extroversion and introversion; military science and the arts; love and hate; friendship and betrayal; and perhaps, as Dr. Telot has suggested above, a reawakening of the oedipal complex. It is natural to wonder if the book in some way foreshadows the author's tragic suicide. An unusual, masterfully written, compelling story that can be re-read and enjoyed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What else is there to say other than it's a great novel? A very much compacted masterpiece that addresses many questions that we still ask ourselves today. The narrative is not boring at all. I truly enjoyed reading what the General had to say about friendship, loyalty, comradery, love, passion, duty, betrayal, and essentially the qualities in men and their human relationships with others. It's even more amazing how the General answers his own questions (which shows you how much the author has pondered over these issues himself), and after 41 years he really has pretty much figured out the answers to his own questions. The fact that he asks 2 very unexpected questions at the end, even though he knows the answers, makes me feel sad thinking that the General spent 41 years feeling the way he did. Despite all those hateful feelings amongst all the characters, they learned to forgive themselves and each other. Simply... great! I highly recommend it.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Initially I was quite caught up in this novel focused on the meeting of two former friends after a 41-year estrangment. Marai creates a striking atmosphre, and I wondered first what had come between the General and Konrad, and then what the General now hoped to learn from Konrad. But somewhere, about 2/3 through the novel, I started to get bored with it. It began to remind me of Strindberg's one-act play, The Stronger, in which two women, former friends, meet in a coffee shop. In both works, one character (the General in Embers, Mrs. X in The Stronger) keeps up a running monologue of thoughts, observations, and questions, while the other either remains silent by choice or is cut off by the talker whenever he/she wishes to respond. It worked well in a one-act play, with the dominant character ultimately adding up the evidence of what had happened and insisting that she had 'won' their competition in the end. In Embers, however, it just went on too long and became a rather tedious, pretentious rant vaguely attempting to philosophize about human nature. I can understand why other readers liked the book so much, but it just wasn't to my taste.
bobprior on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful little book.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The general has been waiting for the return of his childhood friend Konrad for 41 years. 41 years ago their lifelong friendship came to an abrupt end, and Konrad left the country without a word of goodbye. For 41 years The General has lived like a hermit, alone in his ancestral castle, receiving only a handful of visitors, servants and employees, business partners. As the novel opens The General learns that his old friend has at last returned and will be arriving that evening for one final dinner. When they were in school, the two men had a rare friendship:All societies recognize these relationships instinctively and envy them; men yearn for disinterested friendship and usually they yearn in vain. The boys in the academy took refuge in family pride or in their studies, in precocious debauchery or physical prowess, in the confusions of premature and painful infatuations. In this emotional turbulence the friendship between Konrad and Henrik had the glow of a quiet and ceremonial oath of loyalty in the Middle Ages.How this friendship came to be and what forced the two men to part ways are the subject of Embers. As The General prepares for his guest, the narrator tells the story of a friendship between a boy born into priveledge and a boy whose parents sold everything they had just to keep him in school. After Konrad arrives, the two sit down for dinner and we learn the rest of their story through their conversation. The General has been waiting 41 years for his chance to question Konrad about the events of their final day together. He will not let the evening pass without hearing the truth at last.Embers is a quiet novel, but a novel full of tension. We don't learn until late in the story why the two men's friendship ended so abruptly, and it's the desire to know this that gives the book it's forward momentum. But it's a problematic device, because it is a device. The dinner the two men share is a long one, made longer by the chapter length speach The General insists on giving Konrad. The two have waited too long to reconcile, so long that when the time for relevation finally comes around, neither is all that interested. Unfortunately, the same will be true for many readers.
amaben on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
similar tone to Dinesens "Seven Gothic Tales"
snash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a conversation (mostly one sided) between two estranged friends late in their lives, the book uses a plot and suspense to explore many philosophical questions, most importantly, the meaning of life. Perhaps because I'm old enough to spend more time pondering than living, I found the book thought provoking and one I will continue to enjoy as I mull its points over. It was slow (as the topic would dictate) and there were dated attitudes, ie. the way men are, the way women are.
autumnc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Do Hungarians feel more deeply? To read this, you would think so. The book is beautiful, dark, unbelievable. The relationship between the two friends is something to behold. I can only hope that the translation from Hungarian does justice to Marai's original intention.
kambrogi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This 1942 Hungarian novel was translated into English in 2001. It is a fascinating tale of two childhood friends who grow to be men together, and then experience a painful incident that separates them for forty-one years. As elderly men, they are at last to be reunited and one character meditates on the early years as he waits for his friend to arrive. Tension is created because the source of their estrangement is not revealed for some time, and the story, with its compelling but sharply contrasting characters, makes for excellent reading -- until near the end. At that point, some of the details of the story are hard to swallow, and the narration sinks into a long-winded meditation in the voice of the protagonist, finished by an ending that fails to clarify or resolve the issues of the novel. Nonetheless, the book creates the aura of its times beautifully, and is an absorbing treatment of friendship, character and pride in the bygone era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire ¿ and today.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Imagine spending 41 years of your life mostly alone, and left to ponder the events of one emotionally wrenching day. The book opens with Henrik, a 75-year-old retired general, awaiting the arrival of Konrad, a close friend from his youth whom he has not seen since that significant day. The first third of the book sets up their shared history which began as 10-year-old schoolboys who formed an unusually strong bond, because or in spite of their very different socioeconomic backgrounds. They spent their school days and their holidays together, and Konrad was accepted as a member of Henrik's family. On finishing school, they grew into adulthood together through military service, but their relationship ended abruptly.With this foundation laid, the story picks up with Konrad arriving to have dinner with Henrik. The table is set exactly as it was the last time they were together. Past events unfold through Henrik's voice, as he seeks to learn more about Konrad's life and uncover the truth which has been the source of so much pain over the years. This pain has smoldered, like the embers of the title, consuming Henrik body and soul. As the meal and the night wear on, the nature of their conflict is revealed in tiny fragments leading to the inevitable conclusion.Sandor Marai weaves a tale that is surprisingly compelling, since it is told through primarily through Henrik's one-sided conversation with Konrad. The narrative's emotional depth was surprising. All too often, male friendships are portrayed as superficial. It was the strength of their bond, and the searing pain felt by both Henrik and Konrad is precisely what makes Embers such a special work.
angharad_reads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
_Very_ highly recommended to me by a good friend. Sure, it had some pretty cinematography, and /maybe/ I might have enjoyed the "almost entirely told in flashback", but overall, I was disappointed. The book did /not/ take place in one theatrical evening; rather, in 60 years of recurring flashbacks. The main pair of men did /not/ (contrary to the blurb on the back) engage in a verbal duel; rather one of them declaimed a lot whilst the other rolled his eyes at him. Further, I mostly disliked the main character. I would have preferred to know more of his friend's side of the story but the entire book was told from the protagonist's /third-person/ viewpoint. Still, at least it was educational, historico-geographically. And I won't deny that there might have been a symbol.
Bridget770 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Incredible book. The story is not a new one; it's probably the oldest in the world. A rich, powerful man and his best friend have a complicated, intense relationship. Then the rich man marries and the friendship changes with life-changing consequences. It was beautifully written and so indescribably engaging. I did not want it to end.
michalsuz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Now, this book Embers,was translated from German by Carol Brown Janeway. That last bit matters, all the purists throw up their hands in horror, because the original is in Hungarian, what you read is two moves away from it.The book is very very good. I read it in one day and then went over it again, the same day. Two hundred pages, give or take, in a pleasing format, nice Garamond font, space between the lines, and a different, quite wonderful font for the title and the first letter of each chapter, that font is not identified, a pity. It looks handwritten in the 19th century, maybe with a quill. Right for this book.I know it is anathema to translate twice, but she has done it well. I did not feel that I was reading German or another foreign language. No sense of a strange grammar underlying the text, needing to be overcome. The thought that this is a translation did not intrude. During the second reading, when the dreadful urgency I always experience to know what happens to the characters has died down, I thought about it a little, having read a few reviews online.The book was written in 1942, in Hungary. It describes the life of a Hungarian General, a member of the aristocracy, and his coming to terms with death. Also the death of a way of life and a way of thinking, of reasoning. An essential attribute or value was being destroyed, and I think that is the topic of this book.
VictoriaNH on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story of betrayal and friendship. More importantly, it was a story of a wasted life spent living in the past with bitter memories. The general, a rich man with a beautiful wife is betrayed by his wife and his best friend. He then spends the rest of his life (40 + yrs) dwelling on this betrayal and giving up his life to it. He finally confronts his friend in an attempt to extract some sort of revenge for which I don't believe he was successful.
alwright1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book, a novel set in a single evening, was very striking. The story, and the bit of a mystery, push you forward in the text quickly. While most of the last two thirds of the book is practically one long soliloquy, it is not hard to stay interested. However, I do tire of being told all of the things of which women are apparently incapable (the character is particularly insistent about our lack of ability to form true friendships, the gold standard for which is apparently his bizarre, scorn-filled, misogynistic, envy-laced brotherhood with a man he desires jealously, but can never fully understand...right). Besides that, I found it compelling and occasionally even thoughtful.
Tropic_of_Cancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book truly is a masterpiece. It's not really its story, but the way the book is written or the way it put me thinking and thinking some more until my brain hurt or how I found myself reading the same phrases inumerous times. Thank you, mom, for telling me about this wonderful book. Sándor Márai is such an exceptional writter. This was my first time reading his work but I'm sure it won't be the last.
jeniwren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story takes place in a castle at the foot of the Carpathian mountains in the 1930's. Two men, close friends in their youth meet after forty years. This separation involved a woman and an act of betrayal and as they are nearing the end of their lives the truth is to be revealed. This was a disappointing read and never lived up to the hype . Nice prose but there was a tendency for the story to meander at times and the long winded meditations from the viewpoint of the General became tediously repetitious. On the list for the 1001 Books you must read before you die .
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For a book that carries on a single, one-sided conversation for nearly half its length, this is surprisingly readable, and wholly intriguing. The topic is friendship, and with it, rather inevitably, betrayal. The General's youth is related to us, and his early friendship with Konrad, who comes from a very much different background to the wealthy aristocrat. As so often happens, a woman is involved...
heidijane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At a castle in the 1930s, two men meet for the first time in 41 years. Four decades earlier a murky, traumatic event, concerning a woman, led to their sudden separation. Now, as their lives draw to a close, they are keen to draw a line under this event ...This was quite an enjoyable book. It did jump around in time quite a lot, and the main bulk of the story covered one of the men telling his side of the story, so it was sometimes a bit difficult to follow. Given the big build-up, the ending was also somewhat of a disappointment, or maybe it was meant to be intriguing? Certainly, I would recommend this book, but don't expect any answers in a hurry...