Summary and book reviews of Embers by Sandor Marai

Embers

By Sandor Marai

Embers
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2001,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2002,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

The rediscovery of a masterpiece of Central European literature originally published in Budapest in 1942 and unknown 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.

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 ...

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About This Book
Henrik, a retired general of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, has lived for years as a recluse in his castle in the Hungarian forest waiting for the arrival of Konrad, the best friend of his youth, whom he has not seen for forty-one years. The two men met when they were roommates in military school during the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Their friendship was influenced from the beginning by the vastly different circumstances of their births: Henrik was born into nobility, whereas Konrad was impoverished and living out his parents' dream for him to lead an aristocratic life. Despite these different backgrounds, their unusually close friendship persisted into adulthood. The young soldiers shared an apartment in ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Die Zeit

With the triumph of a two hundred page novel, twentieth-century literature--which we thought was finally dead and buried--has received the posthumous gift of a new master whom in the future we will rank with Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, Robert Musil and even our other lost demigods, Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka. His name is Sándor Márai.

Berthier Zeitung

Márai is in the almost unique position of having attained posthumous best-sellerdom (in country after country) because he distills plot and description to a magic essence of atmosphere, empathy and narrative tension that no European writer has achieved since Joseph Roth.

Stadtzeitung Wien

A novel that pares all superfluous detail away from plot and character to achieve maximum tension. Hemingway goes Habsburg!

Hamburger Abendblatt

A literary master lays bare the essentials---what is truth, what are the questions we ask, what is the meaning of life itself---and lets them explode into action. His philosophy is profound but hardly leaves a footprint and is virtuoso in its clear-sighted precision. This novel is a literary rediscovery of the first rank.

Der Spiegel

This major European novelist not only anatomizes--brilliantly--one triangular relationship from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, he also captures the pandemonium of all human relationships the smoldering embers of our feelings, of lust, love, revenge and hate. It is wonderful, and a masterpiece.

Publishers Weekly

Embers has already been published to much acclaim in 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 Marai should encourage a reappraisal of the writer's place in literary history.

Booklist

The General's performance is either the height of romantic nobility or proof positive that the aristocracy was too full of itself to survive modernity.

Library Journal

Though the novel inevitably has an old-fashioned feel, the questions it raises are timeless. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. The first English translation of a brooding, densely atmospheric, forgotten 1942 novel whose eminent Hungarian expatriate author (b. 1900) committed suicide, while living in the US, in his 89th year. . . . Mesmerizing. . . . A major rediscovery, arguably comparable to those of Bruno Schulz, Leo Perutz, and Joseph Roth. A small, beautifully fashioned masterpiece.

Reader Reviews
Cezar

It is really a very human book about human condition.


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