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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  14,650 ratings  ·  1,692 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)
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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  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,650 ratings  ·  1,692 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.


The ex-friend had an
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
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
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
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
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: 1001-core, 501, favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Steven Godin
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
Emilio Berra
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: letto
L'ultimo duello
Siamo nel 1940, quando già divampa la Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Due uomini di 75 anni si fronteggiano nella sala del castello di uno di loro (il Generale). Sono ben 41 anni che i due non si vedono. Eppure erano intimi amici fin dall'adolescenza benché, o forse proprio perché, tanto diversi : uno ricco, razionale, militaresco; l'altro di famiglia non abbiente, di temperamento artistico, amante della musica.
Perché dunque un così lungo periodo di voluto allontanamento ?
Fra di loro c'
Tea Jovanović
Fenomenalan roman mađarskog modernog klasika... MUST READ!
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
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
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
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
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libri-brevi
"Le candele ardono fino a consumarsi completamente"

Se la prima metà, per quanto ben scritta e anche abbastanza interessante, non mi ha colpito particolarmente, la seconda parte è un capolavoro di riflessioni sulla vita, sulla morte, sulla natura umana, sul tempo, sulle relazioni, sul mondo.
Ho adorato i capitoli finali, quel dialogo che più che una conversazione a due è un lungo monologo, che ti tiene incollato alle pagine e ti scarica addosso una valanga di pensieri ed emozioni, senza che tu abb
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
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
Jan 06, 2012 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
Nelson Zagalo
Foi a primeira vez que li Sándor Márai, confesso que me aproximei do mesmo pelas análises que fui lendo no Goodreads, mas também por surgir em várias listas relativas à crise existencial da meia-idade, fase em que de momento me encontro. O principal elemento que retiro desta leitura não é novo porque é um dos principais princípios do budismo, mas é no entanto sempre bom ir sendo relembrado deste: Tudo é Impermanente. Nada do que façamos ou nos façam, bom ou mau, dura para sempre.

A narrativa está
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
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,
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dopo quarant'anni, due uomini ormai anziani, che sono stati amici inseparabili, si incontrano nella dimora di uno dei due, un castello ai piedi dei Carpazi, e si affrontano, cercando risposte a ciò che ha causato la rottura della loro amicizia, e l'allontamento dell'uno dall'altro. Affiorano dubbi, sospetti e tensioni legati alla relazione che entrambi hanno avuto con la stessa donna, moglie di uno dei due, e a un episodio, inatteso e scioccante, che li ha visti protagonisti. Un duello senza spa ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ungheria
"La luce delle candele si sta smorzando, tra i grandi alberi del giardino spira un vento che preannuncia l'alba. La stanza intorno ai due vecchi è quasi al buio".

Ci sono anche io, in un angolo, il più remoto di quella stanza. E ci sono le braci, presenza intima e misteriosa, nel camino.
Sono passati quarantuno anni dal giorno in cui Konrad se ne è andato improvvisamente. Henrik è rimasto. Ha atteso il suo ritorno. Doveva tornare. Non poteva fare diversamente.
Quarantuno anni passati in solitudine
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
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
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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
“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.” 94 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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