Sunday, February 3, 2013

Embers by Sandor Marai

This is a strangely riveting, wonderfully written book by Hungarian author Sandor Marai. I found it at a book sale last year and, given my interest in historical fiction, especially translated historical fiction, thought I'd take a chance. Just how much did I love Tolstoy last month taking me away to 1870s Russia? I was utterly captivated. So, along with my never-ending search for splendid writing and interesting subjects, I've also been collecting foreign authors.

Embers takes place in one evening in a conversation between two elderly men who were once best friends and have come together in a bid to clear the air about a falling out they had forty-one years ago. The atmosphere is mesmerizing with its drafty castle hung with tapestries and chandeliers nestled deep within a dark mysterious forest. Normally I love castles and forests, but what I wasn't sure about was a book based entirely in a single evening in a single conversation. I can't even muster enough interest in a real-life conversation for that long. But this! This is different. The author sets up the tension so that you HAVE to keep reading to try and make sense of the speaker's point. There are clues and revelations here and there that just make you want to know more. The more you know, though, the more mysterious it gets. I couldn't put it down. Wonderful.

In this magnificent rediscovered masterpiece of world literature, the Hungarian writer Sandor Marai conjures the mournful glamour of the decaying Austro-Hungarian Empire and the distilled 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 but whom he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions. They will exhume the memory of their friendship and that of the General's beautiful, long-dead wife. And they will return to the time the three of them last sat together following a hunt in the nearby forest - a hunt in which no game was taken but during which something was lost forever. (back cover)


Pooch said...

Sounds like a fascinating book. I'm also reading historical fiction, Becoming Queen by Kate Williams. Have you read it?


Trish said...

No I haven't but it sounds good. I'll have to take a closer look.

Daisy said...

That's a unique concept. Sounds very interesting!

Trish said...

It is unique. I've heard of books written in this was but never really thought I'd like them. I'm glad I gave this one a try; I really liked it!

Heidi’sbooks said...

You find the most interesting books! Where do you find them? Seriously, where do you look for books?

Trish said...

I am quite fortunate to live close to a number of used book stores with constantly updated shelves, often with books for as little as $1.00. Since I live walking distance from these places I can drop in almost daily to see what's just come in. It's all quite fun - like a treasure hunt! These books are often an odd assortment of obscure titles, ones I probably wouldn't find or know how to look for otherwise. But it's amazing, also, how many current, recently published books are on these used shelves as well! I prefer owning the books I read so that I can read them whenever, which means I have to keep myself to some kind of budget. I figure a dollar here and there is not too hard to part with and before long I've built my own little collection with all sorts of cool books, authors, subjects, and titles.

Thrift stores can also be a great place to find used books. Unfortunately - or fortunately ;) - their book sections are often in disarray so there's a bit more 'hunting' to do. I don't mind, though. In fact I couldn't think of a better way to spend a rainy Saturday than rifling through a pile of books that no one else wants to bother with. Here, again, the books are often less than a dollar.

And then, lastly, book sales. Many of the churches, schools, and libraries around here have annual fundraisers selling used books. I try and hit those whenever they're on. They're often a little more expensive, like $2 - $5 per book, but hey, I figure I can splurge a little sometimes too ;)

New books are good, too. But those come mostly in the form of gifts and special occasions. I just love the foraging aspect of old, obscure, and vintage books.

Heidi’sbooks said...

I have a couple of used book stores near me, but they are more expensive than the ones you mention! I should visit them more often--I only get to them once or twice a year.

I am not a thrift store shopper. I can never find anything! I do tend to camp out at the book section when I do visit the thrift store. Actually, maybe I should look at thrift store shopping as book shopping--then I'd be more willing to go there.

I've added your blog to my blogroll.

Trish said...

Used book stores are hit or miss in most areas. I don't think I've ever come across ones that are as inexpensive as the ones around here, which compels me to keep collecting as long as they're open, even if a book ends up sitting on my own shelf for years. It all sounds a wee bit like hoarding, doesn't it? But in reality I don't have unlimited space so I do end up passing books along to others or bringing them back to the used book store for a credit or donating them to a fundraiser.

Thanks for the blogroll addition. I've returned the favour :)