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)