It is the summer of 1918. As graduation approaches at a boys academy in provincial Hungary, the senior class finds itself in a ghost town. Fathers, uncles, older brothersall have been called to the front. Surrounded only by old men, mothers, aunts, and sisters, the boys are keenly aware that graduation will propel them into the army and imminently toward likely death on the battlefield. In the final weeks of the academic year, four of these young menand the war-wounded older brother of one of themare drawn tightly together, sensing in one another a mutual alienation from their bleak, death-mapped future. Soon they are acting out their frustrations and fears in a series of increasingly serious, strange, and subversive games and petty thefts. But when they attract the attention of a stranger in townan actor with a traveling theater companytheir games, and their lives, begin to move in a direction they could not have predicted and cannot control.
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"By the time Márai's moody, uneven narration gives way to the students' long-winded confessions, the novel's seams are clearly visible." - PW.
"Readers who enjoy a central European setting would do better with Zsuzsa Bank's The Swimmers." - Library Journal.
"A compelling novel that nonetheless carries the ponderous weight of the era's events and ideas." - Kirkus.
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Sandor Marai was a Hungarian novelist born in 1900 whose works remained untranslated and all but forgotten for years until they were recently discovered. The first of his works to be translated into English was Embers.
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