Embers Hardcover – 3 Nov 2001
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In Sándor Márai's Embers, two old men, once the best of friends, meet after a 41-year break in their relationship. They dine together, taking the same places at the table that they had assumed on the last meal they shared, then sit beside each other in front of a dying fire, one of them near-silent, the other one, his host, slowly and deliberately tracing the course of their dead friendship. This sensitive, long-considered elaboration of one man's lifelong grievance is as gripping as any adventure story, and explains why Maáai's forgotten 1942 masterpiece is being compared with the work of Thomas Mann. In some ways, M´rai's work is more modern than Mann's. His simplicity and succinct, unadorned lyricism may call to mind Latin American novelists like Gabriel García Márquez, or even Italo Calvino. It is the tone of magical realism, although Márai's work is only magical in the sense that he completely engages his reader, spinning a web of words as his wounded central character describes his betrayal and abandonment at the hands of his closest friend. Even the setting, an old castle, evokes dark fairy tales.
The story of the rediscovery of Embers is as fascinating as the novel itself. A celebrated Hungarian novelist of the 1930s, Márai survived the war but was persecuted by the Communists after they came to power. His books were suppressed, even destroyed, and he was forced to flee his country in 1948. He died in San Diego in 1989, one year before the neglected Embers was finally reprinted in his native land. This reprint was discovered by the Italian writer and publisher Roberto Calasso, and the subsequent editions have become international bestsellers. All of his novels are now slated for American publication. --Regina Marler
As masterly and lovely a novel as one could ask for...(a)compact masterpiece...Embers is perfect. -- Washington Post
Lustrous...a jewelled antique (with) a musical command of motifs, variations, tempos and cadences...thrilling. -- New York Times Book Review
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Top Customer Reviews
On reflection, the immensely enthusiastic reviews state 'a conversation' between two ageing friends that had not seen each other for forty-one years. There was little conversation between the two men. The narrative was almost entirely Henrik's. Whilst this is a very clever achievement, I kept wanting Konrad to at least say something to give his character more dimension.
To conclude, although I have my criticisms, there are few (perhaps no) writers of today that can write such prose of such quality
The simple narrative framework allows Henrik to tell the story through his own meditations and his one-sided conversation with Konrad after his arrival. Touching first on the lives and marriages of Henrik's parents, his wife's parents, and then Konrad's parents, Henrik slides obliquely and seductively into the story of his friendship with Konrad, his courtship of Krisztina, and the first four years of his own marriage. As tiny details emerge and build upon one another, the dramatic irony grows. Henrik's vision of himself, his motivations, and his actions appear in sharp relief against the conclusions being drawn by the reader. Henrik is, above all, an aristocrat, imprisoned by a value system he also embraces.
As the parallel dilemmas he imposes on his wife and Konrad emerge ironically from Henrik's narrative, the reader is simultaneously fascinated and frustrated by Henrik's view of his own dilemma and his desire for Truth. A heart-stopping climax and Konrad's dramatic reply to his interrogation, along with numerous breath-taking descriptions of nature, leave the reader awed by Marai's talent and grateful that this very clever and sensitive study of character and values has been reclaimed for posterity. Mary Whipple
Márai marries intrigue and timelessness as he teases out the background to the principal characters, the remaining two of whom meet in old age after an absence of 41 years.
Konrad returns to the family home of the General, Henrik, at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains after a self-imposed exile in the Tropics and London. The reunion of the once inseparable contemporaries is called by the General as an opportunity for truth and explanation. However, it is the General who reveals the reason for Henrik's departure. The flight, and the immediately preceding events, revolved around Krisztina, the General's late wife.
Once the men are reunited, dined and have withdrawn the mood darkens. In search of truth past, the General, as if in court, addresses his witness, sets the scene, recites the evidence, and discloses his suspicions before cutting to the chase asking of Konrad two questions for which the dinner was arranged.
Márai's innovation is that the questions strike at a higher level of inquiry than those required to resolve a mere mystery thriller. Certainly a novel of such atmosphere and scope cannot be sustained by the mere fact of a confession.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is well written and flows quite well (hence the two stars). So you read patiently until the end waiting for the mistery to be explained and... nothing! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mark Wolves
In Sandor Marai's novel 'Embers' we meet Henrik, an elderly general, living a hermetic existence in his castle home situated at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, who is... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Susie B
Reading that book after some recommendation - and it is a very distinctive read.Published 9 months ago by Nini
This is a strange book. It is about a meeting between two men who were great friends in their youth but who have not seen or been in contact with each other for 41 years. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Diana, Dublin
Although this book was written a long time ago, the writing remains fresh despite the time setting of the story (in the early 1900s). Read morePublished 18 months ago by Book fiend