The rediscovery of a masterpiece of Central European literature originally published in Budapest in 1942 and un-
known 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.
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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 nearly 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 Márai's forgotten 1942 masterpiece is being compared with the work of Thomas Mann. In some ways, Márai's work is more modern than Mann's. His brevity, 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 Márai's novels are now slated for American publication. --Regina MarlerFrom the Back Cover:
"Thanks to this first English translation of Embers, our ever-shrinking world of culture seems a little bigger....The reviewer must be discreet because any description of the novel's central event will destroy the spell that every reader is entitled to in reading [it]. Let it be said that in every way the novel is satisfying. There are no loose ends, no cheap avoidances, no dangling possibilites for a sequel.... the statues in the famous metaphorical garden of T.S. Eliot's literary tradition will have to be rearranged to make room for this powerful work."
-Tom McGonigle, Los Angeles Times
"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."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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."
"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."
"A novel that pares all superfluous detail away from plot and character to achieve maximum tension. Hemingway goes Habsburg!"
"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."
"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."
- Der Spiegel
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