The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller, available as a Penguin Essential for the first time. A castle at the foot of the Carpathian mountains in the 1930s. Two men, inseparable in their youth, meet for the first time in forty-one years. They have spent their lives waiting for this moment. Four decades earlier a murky, traumatic event - something to do with a betrayal, and a woman - led to their sudden separation. Now, as their lives draw to a close, the devastating truth about that moment will be revealed. Embers is a ...
The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller, available as a Penguin Essential for the first time. A castle at the foot of the Carpathian mountains in the 1930s. Two men, inseparable in their youth, meet for the first time in forty-one years. They have spent their lives waiting for this moment. Four decades earlier a murky, traumatic event - something to do with a betrayal, and a woman - led to their sudden separation. Now, as their lives draw to a close, the devastating truth about that moment will be revealed. Embers is a masterpiece - an unforgettable story of passion, fidelity, truth and deception.
New. SHIPS 1ST CLASS UPGRADE (2-3 day delivery) from NJ w/tracking; GIFT-ABLE AS NEW FIRST; NEW AS SHOWN THIS COVER. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. Vintage International. Audience: General/trade.15001 15001--Already an international bestseller, "Embers"--first published in Budapest in 1942--finds an aristocrat and his friend fighting a duel of words over the now-dead chatelaine of the castle. A "New York Times" Notable Book.
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Sandor Marai (1900 -- 1989) was a Hungarian novelist whose works have been rediscovered in recent years. His short novel "Embers" was published in 1942 and appeared in English, derived from a German text, in 1991.
Marai has written a compelling novel of passion, love, change, the passage of time, and the power of music. The book, set in the death of the Austro-Hungarian empire has an ornate, anachronistic tone. It centers around two elderly men, Henrik ("the General"), his friend Konrad, both 75 at the time of the narration, and Krisztina, the wife of Henrik, long-since deceased.
Henrik is a wealthy aristocrat whose family owns a large castle in the forests near Vienna. Konrad is from a poor family. As boys, the two form a seemingly fast friendship as students in a military academy in Vienna and become well-nigh inseparable through young adulthood. Konrad is said to be distantly related to Chopin and has a passion for music that Henrik cannot share. Early in the story, Konrad and Henrik's mother, a French aristocrat frustrated by her lonely life in the castle, play together Chopin's Polonaise-Fantasie, a performance that Marai describes as "no more than a pretext to loose upon the world those forces that shake and explode the structures of order which man has devised to conceal what lies beneath." (p. 51) Music and its elemental passions are symbols both of what divides and what unites Konrad and Henrik.
Konrad introduces his friend to Krisztina, herself musical and the daughter of an aging and poor violinist. Henrik and Krisztina marry, but it becomes clear in the story that Krisztina never felt passionate love for her husband. The two men and Krisztina remain close until, Konrad tries to shoot Henrik on a hunting trip because he is involved in an affair with Krisztina but loses his nerve. Konrad abruptly leaves Vienna, and Krisztina and Henrik no longer live under the same roof until Krisztina dies eight years later. Forty-one years after they last have seen each other (1899), Konrad and Henrik meet again as, with WW II raging, Henrik has Konrad to the castle for dinner and reminiscing.
Roughly the first half of "Embers" carefully sets the stage for the meeting of the two old friends while the second half recounts their dinner on the fateful reunion evening. Henrik does most of the talking in long speeches that make clear the passion and the bitterness with which he has been plagued over the long intervening decades by his friend's and wife's betrayal. The book is filled with long, rancorous monologues as he relives the events of his life again and again. There is a great deal of dramatic tension, symbolism, and at the end a sense of realization.
At the end of the dinner, Henrik asks Konrad two questions which have plagued him over the years. The significant question he asks is:" Do you also believe that what gives our lives their meaning is the passion that suddenly invades us heart, soul, and body, and burns in us forever no matter what else happens in our lives?" (p. 210) The two men achieve a measure of peace as they realize that the passion they both had for Krisztina many years earlier was the source of sorrow and loss, but was also what had given their lives meaning. The theme of loss on this highly personal level is combined in "Embers" with a sense of changing from the aristocratic world of Austrio-Hungary to modernity.
This is a complex multi-layered novel that explores the power of passion in what it means to live a human life.
I've passed it on to several people, all of whom have been mesmerized as well.
Mar 26, 2008
what a story
Two old men have a dialogue about a woman. Who would have thought that this could be so interesting. A real page turner of a novel, you will want to know how it ends. Recommended.
Apr 30, 2007
This Hungarian writer comes to the fore with a thought-provoking conversation between two old men after not having seen each other for 40 years. Did they both love the same woman? Why did she not stay in touch with either of them if she might have been found out? From a philosophical point of view, the conversation could be seen as a monologue, but that in itself says something about human nature. You won?t be able to stop flipping the pages, and you definitely won?t notice that it?s a translation either.
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