My final read of 2012 was Embers, by Sandor Marai. Embers was first published in 1942 by Hungarian writer Marai, and was translated into English and republished in 2002. The book takes place on one evening, in a chilly, secluded estate, where two old friends in their 70s sit down to dinner. The men, formerly best friends, haven’t seen each other in 41 years, and their conversation over that long dinner attempts to resolve the cause of the General (who lives in the castle) and his friend Konrad’s estrangement.
Embers is a beautifully written story. It’s an old fashioned book, with long, almost philosophical passages about friendship, loyalty and love. The General and Konrad have had forty years to fixate on what pushed them apart, and during the evening they experience intense anger, sorrow, resignation, and attempts at reconciliation, even though they both realize that after Konrad leaves the General’s estate, they won’t see each other again.
Embers is a short book, but a memorable one. The friendship between these men – and its demise – will stay with me for a long time. Goodreads reviews suggest that this is a polarizing novel – people either seem to love it or find it pretentious and boring, the General self-important and unlikeable. I fall more in the first camp – I’m glad I read it and was impressed with the writing. My copy has many dog-eared pages designating paragraphs that I noted for their eloquence and/or power.
Have other EDIWTB readers read Embers? I’d love to hear your thoughts.