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on 28 October 2016
I began reading this and couldn't let it down. It's the language, the words and the imagery they create that make this novel so good.
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on 19 October 2014
what a writer. if you like this you are going to love Portraits of a marriage>>> the best book I read in 2014
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on 4 January 2013
I liked this alot. It created lots of discussion and disagreements at the book club meeting. I would recommend it.
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on 11 November 2006
If you like reading, then you probably read good books. Some you like, some less, and some not at all. And then, every 3 to 4 years, a truly great book comes along. This is one of those books. It is atmospheric and evocative, a beautifully written long monologue of a person belonging to a dying age. The prose is heavy with some great insights into the human condition; so much so that often i had to stop, to chew on what I'd just read. I sometimes open the book at random just to savour the language and the atmosphere. A masterpiece of world literature, as good as any Nobel prize winning author I've read.
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on 20 March 2002
I was first drawn to this slim but elegant work after Tibor Fischer's named it as one of his books of the year. As a longstanding admirer of Fischer's works I felt oddly compelled to trust his judgement .My trust was not betrayed! I can honestly say that I have never read a finer evocation of the life of a mid-twentieth century Hungarian goulash vendor. Konrad's 12-page meditation on the grinding of paprika equals nay even excels the most lyrical and labyrinthine passages of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. In several reviews the work of Thomas Mann has been alluded to but for my money Marai is more playful, wry and ebullient. Closer, perhaps, in spirit to Italo Svevo or Zane Grey or Nicolson Baker than the steely, Prussian Mann.
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VINE VOICEon 7 November 2003
Sandor Marai has, in this novel, created a thing of beauty which will remain in my memory for a long time to come. It is an examination of the essence of friendship, love and trust, and of what might happen if all three are betrayed. That there has been some form of betrayal we know early on, but its exact form is hidden from us for a long while.
The slow revelation of this truth, and the reaction of Heinrik and Konrad to it are part of what makes this tale so magical. I could not put this down, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. If you only buy yourself one book this year, let this be the one.
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on 21 March 2002
A willed for confrontation prompts a reminiscence that turns into a reckoning. 'Embers' is so artfully realised that you forgive the somewhat inevitable romantic conclusion, which still manages to be profoundly elegaic and oddly satisfying. The overall effect of it is remarkably similar to listening to Chopin, and to read this book on a quiet afternoon with his music playing softly in the background provides an experience of peace you might not wish to forget too quickly.
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on 1 November 2007
What would you say to your old best friend if he had suddenly disappeared, and then had re-appeared forty-odd years later?
Probably 'Where the hell did YOU go?' and then you'd let him answer.

The premise to this book is great, it's got a nice moody cover, great reviews, - but the truth is this story just goes on and on, discussing just about everything except where the hell Konrad has been or why he vanished. In fact the poor guy barely gets a word in, and must be sitting there in the candlelight wishing he'd never returned.

Even on the odd occasion that Konrad gets the chance, even an invitation to explain himself, the General butts in and waffles on for pages and pages about anything and everything all over again. And in the end you sense that Konrad has just given up and is looking at his watch.

Certainly the story is well written, but no-one talks like this, nor would treat a guest so rudely. Hardly suprising that this old bore has lived alone all these years. He wouldn't have many friends, and certainly no repeat visitors.

I finished the book out of grim determination and a strange curiosity as to whether poor Konrad would finally get a word in. But now it's over I don't feel I can even hand this book into a second hand store as it would be unkind to pass this tedious but well written yawn into someone else's life.

I would suggest that anyone looking for the passion and emotional charge that this book pretends to offer would be far better off to consider 'Love in the Time of Cholera' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I know you'll read all those other reviews again and ignore me, but you will only have yourself to blame. I'm sure Konrad had a great story to tell, but we'll never know, he slipped out quietly while the General was pontificating into the air.
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on 17 December 2007
This short novel tackles fundamental problems like truth, the real nature of man or the importance of human relations.

For Sándor Márai, `facts are only part of the truth.' `Sometimes facts are no more than pitiful consequences because guilt does not reside in our acts but in the intentions that give rise to our acts.'
However, motives are mostly hidden in the human night, `filled with the crouching forms of dreams, desires, vanities, self-interest, mad love, envy and the thirst for revenge.'
Therefore, we have to accept betrayal and disloyalty. `Why should we expect better of the world, when it teems with unconscious desires and their all-too-deliberate consequences ... young men are bayoneting the hands of young men of other nations and all laws and conventions have been voided?'
Or, there are the debilitating pressures of parents on their children; `never a journey, never a summer outing, because I must be made into the masterpiece that they failed to achieve.'

For Sándor Márai, however, there is one passion one should not lose: self-respect, `the implacable foundation of humanity'. Losing self-respect equals opening the flood of inhuman evil and unstoppable self-destruction.

The long confession of one of the protagonists of this book turns into an in depth reflection on mankind and the world we live in.
Not to be missed.
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on 4 May 2016
A good book club read.
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