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Embers

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  15,325 ratings  ·  1,771 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
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Paperback, 214 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1942)
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Virginia Arthur Embers: this book is a literary classic. It has absolutely no profanity or explicit sex in it. It just intimates the sex. It is about…moreEmbers: this book is a literary classic. It has absolutely no profanity or explicit sex in it. It just intimates the sex. It is about adultery/betrayal/
and revenge but frames the character/plot in an almost Shakespearean way. (less)

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3.95  · 
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 ·  15,325 ratings  ·  1,771 reviews


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Jim Fonseca
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been on a binge reading Hungarian authors lately and Sandor Marai is the master. This is the 6th book of his I have read.

The time is during the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1899. An isolated man has been waiting 41 years for a visit from his former best friend from army days and now he has appeared. His 90-year old nanny and man servant run the household and even hold hunts on the property, but the main character, ‘the general,’ as he is called, does not appear in public.

description

The ex-friend had an
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Brina
Apr 02, 2017 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 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
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Seemita
Feb 03, 2016 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
Carol
Embers presents some of the loveliest, most elegant writing I have encountered this year. At its core, however, it is an overlong ramble of a soliloquy that should have been reduced to a stunning short story. It's an easy enough read, full of the philosophical queries and conclusions of its aged General about the meaning of life, love, honor, killing, obligation, M-M friendship. But the guest is permitted only 5-8 lines. He can't get a word in edgewise. And Krisztina? She has no voice.

I would l
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Samadrita
May 12, 2013 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
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K.D. Absolutely
Aug 15, 2009 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: favorites, 501, 1001-core
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dolors
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dolors by: The extinguished fire in me
Shelves: read-in-2017
“All that is left in the embers is ash, black ash, with the sheen of a mourning veil of watered silk.”

“Embers” is the ideal title to summon up the melancholic decadence that soaks the pages of this intense but short novella. Candles burn until they are totally consumed by the flickering nature of their essence, as it happens with life when confronted with its impending mortality.
Two old men, General Henrik and Kondrád, meet after forty years in a secluded castle in the heart of Hungary, where t
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Steven Godin
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, hungary
Two old men, one dimly lit room, and the past awakening. That's pretty much the set up for Sándor Márai's intensely felt and solemn 1942 novel, which was originally titled 'Candles burn until the end' in Hungary. He has a growing popularity post-death, due to his work, but also his troubled life, that is mirrored by Hungary's grave misfortunes in the 20th century, and it's sad to think at the time he took his own life in California of all places in 1989, the literary world still knew little of h ...more
Mary
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hungary, fiction, 2015
“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
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Mariel
Sep 30, 2011 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
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Alice Poon
Dec 27, 2015 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
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Cat
May 22, 2008 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
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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
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Orsolya
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
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Stephen P
Jan 13, 2014 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
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Lynne King
Mar 17, 2016 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
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Willow
Jul 10, 2013 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
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Aubrey
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
Tony
Jan 18, 2016 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,
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lisa_emily
Aug 22, 2008 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
Kelly
This poor, deluded, tragic, ridiculous, tied up in knots, righteous, self-righteous, profound, profoundly scared, old, tired, poor, poor man. The most fucked up, yet painfully real therapy session I’ve ever read. I don’t understand why people are frustrated in their reviews that the guest didn’t get to talk more- that was the whole point. That was never going to happen. He never wanted to know (he desperately did, but not really). He’s spent too much time, too many words, too many years, buildin ...more
Josh
Mar 04, 2017 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
...more
Edward
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Edward by: Octavian
A Note About the Translator

--Embers
Gill
Jan 28, 2015 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.
Tim
Jul 12, 2013 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.
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James
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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El
For a long time in our lives, we knew people back in our younger days, and then lost track of them for one reason or another, occasionally thinking "I wonder whatever happened to...". There was not always a way of knowing whatever happened to some people, especially if you moved away from home and didn't have any mutual friends any more.

But then Facebook happened. And the world rejoiced because we could suddenly become "friends" with people we knew a gazillion years ago, see that their lives are
...more
Blanca
Jan 19, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, lan-sp, 2011
This may be the first book I finish out of sheer stubbornness, and even then I had to skim through the last 40 pages.

Such a terrible, terrible book. It's basically 200 hundred pages where a bitter old man rambles about every paranoid supposition he has made in the last 40 years of his life. He does so very condescendingly and at times he's rude and misogynist. I really should have known he was going to be a drama-queen when at the very beginning he explains how as a child he fell terribly ill in
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Gautam
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too profound and too beautiful to put into words. Dark, scathing, thought-provoking and yet simple & beautiful.

5 stars on 5!
-gautam
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Reading the World: BOTM July 2019 - Embers 11 8 Jul 26, 2019 07:32AM  
Reading 1001: Embers by Sandor Marai 10 44 Jul 17, 2019 08:33AM  
Embers 2 89 Apr 16, 2018 11:05AM  
Play Book Tag: Embers by Sandor Marai 4 24 Dec 03, 2016 09:57AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Change description 11 38 Dec 08, 2015 11:01AM  

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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
“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.” 97 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.” 50 likes
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