Sandor Marai    



Sándor Márai was born into an impoverished branch of aristocracy in the fin de siècle Austro-Hungarian Empire. Extremely anti-fascist, he managed to continue to live in Hungary through WWII before he was hounded out in 1948, traveling first to Italy before residing in San Francisco until his death in 1989. He was a well-known literary figure in the 1930s but until the recent rediscovery of Embers, his reputation had faded as surely as the light from a dying fire.

Embers is a novel of an empire and of a way of life as it was dying in cowardly retreat to a modernism that was hollow in its function. Márai writes of two friends who meet at a military academy in Vienna. Henrik, son of an Officer of the Guards and scion of great wealth, is born to be a soldier. Konrad, whose parents are of a faded aristocratic connection--his mother is a relative of Chopin and will leave Konrad a castle on the border of Russia and Poland--is at heart an artist and a musician.

When they meet their bonding is as inevitable as the rising of the sun and the moon. The friends spend twenty-four years together, closer than brothers and as attuned to each other as twins. Henrik marries and the three conduct their life in perfect equanimity until the predawn of a grand hunt on Henrik's land. The remainder of this exquisite novel, written in prose as portentious the first morning light and as intimately poetic as Chopin's Polonaise-Fantasie, unfurls the lives of these friends on that day and forever after.

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