Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Embers” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  10,667 Ratings  ·  1,276 Reviews
Originally published in 1942 and now rediscovered to international acclaim, this taut and exquisitely structured novel by the Hungarian master Sandor Marai conjures the melancholy glamour of a decaying empire and the disillusioned wisdom of its last heirs.

In a secluded woodland castle an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend
Paperback, 214 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1942)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Embers, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Terry Who cares. Grow up and just read the book and stop trying to use literature as way to test your purity.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 02, 2017 Brina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sandor Marai was born in 1900 in the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire at a time when honor to one's country was of the upmost importance. A staunch anti-fascist following the rise of the iron curtain, Marai was forced to flee his homeland and lived out his remaining days in California. First published in 1942 and recovered with his other novels, Embers is fast becoming a modern classic. A throwback to a time when royalty living in isolated castles was a common practice in Europe, Embers reveals ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 18, 2015 Diane S ☔ rated it it was amazing
Beautiful words that form sentences that makes one stop and think. A exquisitely written story, very descriptive, one can picture the scenes down to the minutest of detail.

Friendship, the most expressive definition of a friendship between two men from different backgrounds that I have ever read. Betrayal, love, pride and at the last a definition of aging that is searing.

I cannot say enough about the experience of reading this book except to say it is one that I will long remember and that I mus
Feb 03, 2016 Seemita rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Seemita by: rahul
My fingers were interlocked around my Baba’s arm and my head was resting on his shoulders. I was stealing a glimpse of his face every now and then, convinced that the lines of exhaustion were going to creep upto his tongue any moment, tendering me an apology to relieve him of our evening chatter for the day. However, my apprehensions were misplaced. The exhaustion stood defeated in the face of the radiance that slowly, ever so gradually, filled his visage, displacing the fatigue like a magic pot ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 15, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010); 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 12, 2013 Samadrita rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who can pardon the absence of a real story
Embers is a tale of heart-breaking beauty. The kind of beauty which is not apparent right at the onset but which makes its omnipresence felt as you keep turning the pages and reach that state of involvement with the narrative, where you cannot wait to feast your eyes and senses on another delicately structured sentence.
It lies in the pall of gloom cast by the shadow of some tragedy unspoken of, lurking in the dark, cobwebbed nooks and corners of a secluded castle, the relentless flow of time th
Jul 05, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2015, hungary
“We will talk these things through once more, try to establish the truth and then go to our deaths, I in this house, you somewhere else…”

My impression of Hungarian authors so far has been that they really know how to write dark and depressing gems. Embers is just that, and possibly the saddest and loneliest little book I’ve read in a while.

What’s lonelier than an elderly recluse brooding for decades in an isolated castle?

Familiar themes abound here: love, betrayal, regret. But it’s done in su
Sep 30, 2011 Mariel rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: dentures
Recommended to Mariel by: it's Hungarian. My usual methods. I'm unpriginal
Blah blah blah put on a puffed up high horse pedestal. I really hate this book. Pseudo "and this was happening cause that's how it happens" styling itself as meaning of shit you could read on a quote of the day site. I HATE books that think telling you this is the same as actually having any meaning. You don't get to just say it and tell me you said it, you awful book. Please, stop coming into my life if you are one of these books!

Or it is a greeting card. The greeting card is to give to the s
Alice Poon
Dec 27, 2015 Alice Poon rated it it was amazing
This was a powerful read that pulled my heart along with the narrator Henrik’s soul-searching dialogue (perhaps monologue is more appropriate) with his best friend and enemy Konrad whom he has not seen for forty-one years. The story is set in the 1900s in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The speech evokes a past love triangle between the two and Henrik’s wife, long dead, and a murder attempt. Henrik chose to stay silent about the double betrayal and to live on stoically. Konrad chose to escape to the
Tea Jovanović
Fenomenalan roman mađarskog modernog klasika... MUST READ!
Nidhi Singh
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? And that if we have experienced this much, then perhaps we haven’t lived in vain? Is passion so deep and terrible and magnificent and inhuman?

Embers reads as a memoir with all the strength, verve, and emotions that a solitary perspective can bring. The incertitude of the narrator’s voice, the lack of defens
May 22, 2008 Cat rated it did not like it
I just didn't get this one.

This book is full of philosophical nonsense that fails to make an impact.

The main character is an uninteresting aristocrat with a victim mentality. He spends the entire book finding new and clumsy ways to say, "Woe is me."

The book is 213 pages long. It takes Sandor Marai 133 pages to pose his question, and another 70 pages to say that he doesn't need to hear the answer.

The real failure of this book is that Marai creates the background of a few other characters who ar
Stephen P
Jan 13, 2014 Stephen P rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Stephen by: M. Sarki
Shelves: favorites

How do you untie knots you cannot see, invisible ropes slung around you? Freudian landscapes of unconditional love sought by birthrate, unfound. Does one spend life seeking? But how does one ever know? Even if found is it right, will it disappear, leave, be taken? Or does one live a life only in forward motion? The perspective changes when one is elderly, looking back on perspectives with an old friend one hasn't seen in forty years.

Within is a book of links and linkages, of the tryst of duty w
Nov 21, 2016 Claudia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5 Sterne.
Die letzten Dinge des Lebens

Die wichtigsten Fragen des Lebens beantwortet man letztendlich immer mit seinem ganzen Leben. S.121

In einer kalten Winternacht am Kaminfeuer seines Jagdschlosses, 41 Jahre nach einem traumatischen Ereignis, will Henkrik offen gebliebene Fragen mit seinem ehemals besten Freund Konrad klären. Zwei Fragen lasten auf Henriks Seele, die ihm vermeintlich nur Konrad beantworten kann
Im Verlauf eines reflektierenden Monologs erkennt Henrik, dass er sich diese Frage
This book grew and accustomed itself to my senses as an oblong piece of grit would first irritate, then slowly become smoothly subsumed by the oyster surrounding it. The final result was just as beautiful and deceptively complex as a perfectly round pearl would be, a piece of wonderful simplicity with a surprisingly sordid history of formation. Fortunately, the world at large did not feel the need to wrest this slowly wrought jewel from its protective nest, unlike its more physically cohesive co ...more
Lynne King
Mar 17, 2016 Lynne King rated it it was amazing
“So he’s come back,” he said aloud, standing in the middle of the room. “Forty-one years and forty-three days later”.

“ These words seemed suddenly to exhaust him, as if he had only just understood the enormousness of forty-one years and forty-three days. He swayed, then sat down in the leather armchair with its worn back. On the little table within reach of his hand was a little silver bell, which he rang…

Oh my, a depressing but brilliant book. A tale of loss but so beautifully portrayed. Re
Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter


(Portrait of Mrs S., 1854 Frank Buchser)

„In Wirklichkeit verhielt es sich so, dass du mich vierundzwanzig Jahre lang gehasst hast, mit einer heissen Leidenschaft, die schon fast an die Glut grosser Beziehungen erinnert - ja, an die Liebe.“

In a Hungarian hunting lodge at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, a retired general called Henrik has been waiting 41 years to have a burning question answered by his closest friend Konrád:

"What role did Krisztina, Henrik's beautiful young wife, play in the
Jul 10, 2013 Willow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In our modern age, I think we tend to glamorize the turn-of-the-century upper classes. It’s probably because of Art Nouveau and the Gibson Girl. I always imagine men dressed in their fashionable tweed suits with stiff collars and ladies in long, lacey skirts with big flouncy hats. And there’s always some garden party somewhere with lots of flowers.

Funny thing though, authors who lived through this period don’t write about it that way. To them the period was filled with pretense, hypocrisy and pa
Let me begin by being frank: I’m full-blooded Hungarian and the daughter of a deceased, well-known Hungarian non-fiction author so I’m slightly biased toward Hungarian literature. Not too mention that Sandor Marai, the author of Embers, shares striking resemblances to my father (escaping from communism holds, fleeing first to Italy before ever touching the US, and death in 1989). Despite these blatant favoritism, Embers is a pure masterpiece and in realm with the classics.

The reader is instantly
Jan 18, 2016 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hungarian
Come in. Come in, come in, my friend. And you are my friend, closer to me than any brother or sister, even though we have not seen nor spoken to each other in 41 years. It is brutally cold outside, but in here there is a fire, and very fine wine. The room is meticulously set as it was at that last meal, down to that third place setting, empty now. I have figured everything out, what happened then, and why you fled. And now I will tell you.

An eavesdropper might wish for more dialogue between us,
Aug 22, 2008 lisa_emily rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dwellers and memorists
Recommended to lisa_emily by: Libby
Shelves: fictions
I loved this little book. It is short, and I could have finished within a few days, but I wanted to linger over it. What I loved most of about this book is its deliberation. The author wanted to work out one very small but potent aspect of a life- friendship and its death-and he took his time unfolding the details and complexities of feeling. In a way, one could say that nothing really happens in this book, except memories and thoughts. And it is true, the first half of the book consists of the ...more
Jan 06, 2012 Michela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hearts-books
E' difficile articolare a parole quello che questo libro ha provocato in me, le riflessioni che ne sono scaturite, le angosce che ha riportato in superficie...
E' un romanzo breve, brevissimo, ma 170 pagine possono bastare a turbare un'anima già turbata di suo, a fornire risposte che proprio adesso, in questo periodo e soprattutto in questi giorni stavo cercando.
Risposte scomode alle quali ti rifiuti di credere ma che poi sei costretta ad accettare, a mani alte, arresa, perché a volte è inutile
Marco Tamborrino
C'era qualcosa su cui non riuscivano a comprendersi. Eppure si amavano.

1. Questo libro è scritto benissimo.
2. Questo libro è strutturato benissimo.
3. Alcuni passi e certe pagine raggiungono vette di poesia altissime.
1. Questo libro è completamente raccontato, non presenta parti mostrate. Nemmeno nei romanzi più romantici del romanticismo c'è così poco show e così tanto tell.
2. Più di metà del romanzo è un monologo.
3. Per dire cose che si potevano dire in qualche riga, l'autore impiega decine
Guillermo Macbeth
Apr 09, 2017 Guillermo Macbeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Muy buena novela. Dos personas de edad avanzada se reencuentran después de cuarenta años. El motivo del distanciamiento es la clave de la novela. Marai modula con maestría el acercamiento al motivo que separó a estos amigos. Su procedimiento es simple pero talentoso, un poco histérico o seductor. Quizás la herencia cultural de su tiempo y lugar haya marcado ese manejo de lo reprimido, del olvido, de la toma de conciencia de inspiración freudiana. En cualquier caso, este libro es muy bueno por el ...more
Jul 12, 2013 Tim added it
Recommended by Dawn Tripp.

When I was in high school, I had the privilege of having one of those English teachers that you'd feel damned lucky to run across in the pages of a book, much less in real life. Morrow Jones would shape me indelibly as a reader, a writer, a film buff, a teacher, and a person. One of the many projects we took on together was that of creating fiction in unusual forms and shapes--a t shirt, a set of fake Cliff's Notes for a nonexistent book, and a story on a möbius strip.
Mar 04, 2017 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
(4.5) This is quite the case study into how the questioning of reason can keep a person alive until that question is answered: forty-one years, memories as if they were from yesterday, holding on, never leaving, keeping that thought, those questions betwixt a myriad of synapses firing endlessly until the time comes to explode forth with this torrent of misery, of elation, flooding; at last, he can finally die.

Many have given this a 'one' star based on the fact that Henrik, the main character, ru
Libros Prestados
¿Es posible que una conversación entre dos personas, o mejor dicho, un monólogo que una de ellas le suelta a la otra sea interesante, intenso, y una de las mejores cosas que he leído en mi vida?

Es posible.

Sándor Márai nos cuenta una historia de amistad, de relaciones humanas, que con una simplicidad desarmante, adquiere tintes trágicos. Poco a poco, la tensión va en aumento, hasta dar la sensación de que aquello va a estallar en cualquier momento. Sin prisas, pero sin obstáculos ni subtramas art
Jul 05, 2014 Miguel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
«A sua profundidade é das que brilham à flor da pele.»

Faltam-me os adjectivos, faltam-me os verbos, faltam-me as conjugações… Todas as palavras são indignas da qualidade sublime e invulgar desta obra que, ouso assertar, alterou, por completo, a visão que conservava em torno dos assuntos mais delicados da existência humana – a paixão, a humildade, a amizade e o propósito existencial.

Ao folhear as páginas, o nosso coração irrompe em chamas acolhedoras, graças à honestidade, integridade e verdade
Feb 07, 2016 Edward rated it really liked it
Recommended to Edward by: Octavian
A Note About the Translator

Sandor Marai has an uncanny ability to demonstrate his ideas through things that are not said. Embers is permeated with nostalgia for the past, a past that, as in Proust, cannot be recaptured. This book is excellent not just for how well it is written and how well it is structured, but for the author's ability to demonstrate his ideas through what is not said.
"My homeland no longer exists . . . Everything's come apart. My homeland was a feeling, and that feeling was mortally wounded. When that
Jan 28, 2015 Gill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the second time I have read this book, and I'm even more impressed second time around. It can be appreciated as a beautifully written story linked to the period near the end of the AustroHungarian Empire. But it is also about life, death, love, hate, friendship, ageing, truth, betrayal and much more beside. I could read each page again and again.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Embers by Sandor Marai 4 16 Dec 03, 2016 09:57AM  
Shelfari 1001 group: Embers by Sandor Marai 7 14 Nov 28, 2016 12:58PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Change description 11 34 Dec 08, 2015 11:01AM  
La Stamberga dei ...: Le braci di Sándor Márai 1 9 Jun 05, 2013 09:12AM  
  • Journey by Moonlight
  • They Were Counted
  • Sunflower
  • A Journey Round My Skull
  • Anna Édes
  • The Tragedy of Man
  • La ballata di Iza
  • A Book of Memories
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child
  • Egyperces novellák
  • The Radetzky March
  • Tranquility
  • Kincskereső kisködmön
  • The Book of Hrabal
  • The Melancholy of Resistance
  • Eclipse of the Crescent Moon
Sándor Márai (originally Sándor Károly Henrik Grosschmied de Mára) was a Hungarian writer and journalist.
He was born in the city of Kassa in Austria-Hungary (now Košice in Slovakia) to an old family of Saxon origin who had mixed with magyars through the centuries. Through his father he was a relative of the Ország-family. In his early years, Márai travelled to and lived in Frankfurt, Berlin, and P
More about Sándor Márai...

Share This Book

“No, the secret is that there's no reward and we have to endure our characters and our natures as best we can, because no amount of experience or insight is going to rectify our deficiencies, our self-regard, or our cupidity. We have to learn that our desires do not find any real echo in the world. We have to accept that the people we love do not love us, or not in the way we hope. We have to accept betrayal and disloyalty, and, hardest of all, that someone is finer than we are in character or intelligence.” 76 likes
“She said she never wanted to have secrets from me nor from herself, which is why she wanted to write down everything that otherwise would be hard to talk about. As I said, later I understood that someone who flees into honesty like that fears something, fears that her life will fill with something that can no longer be shared, a genuine secret, indescribable, unutterable.” 47 likes
More quotes…