Stoke the “Embers”


Embers by Sándor Márai is one of those rare books that can fashion a slice of life story into something powerful and intriguing. It explores a deep friendship between two men that began when they were young boys, but fractures when they reach adulthood. They come from two very different backgrounds as one is very wealthy while the other struggles.  Despite the disparity they share a bond that does not break even when deceit comes between them. After an estrangement lasting forty one years, the main character laments that regardless of everything his friend has done, they are still connected.

Márai has an amazing gift of building a story bit by bit until it explodes with one twist after another. The story is told primarily through the eyes of the General (the wealthy one of the two). When he recieves word that his old friend is coming for a visit, the General begins to reminisce about past events. He thinks about how they met and vaguely alludes to what drove them apart. By the time his friend arrives, he is ready to confront the root of his long-held anger.

The two men share an evening of memories and accusations. Events of their history remain close to the surface, but tempers remain surprisingly in check. For both men, this meeting isn’t about proving who is right, but rather about closure and usurping the ultimate meaning of life. In particular, the General is looking to reconcile the human desire for passion, love, and friendship with the tendencies towards deceit, hate, and jealousy. They are inextricably part of the human experience, yet they are capable of both enhancing and destroying the very fabric and joy of life.  It is a paradox that has no answers and offers no consolation.

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I interrupt this book review for shameless, shameless self-promotion.  If you are a campaigner and enjoyed my entry, (The Call) for the first challenge, feel free to give me a thumbs up!  I am #93 and you can find my “like” button here.

So far I’ve read so many wonderful stories and I can’t wait to read more as they are posted! Good luck to everyone in the challenge!

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c.b. 2012


11 thoughts on “Stoke the “Embers”

  1. Sounds interesting, but I might prefer to observe their reunion evening in movie form! Perhaps it’s because I don’t read much these days, that I can see myself saying I’m going to read this book because it was highly recommended, and as it collects dust on the shelf, my guilt rising that I haven’t followed through. I’ll bypass all that by saying “thanks” for the information on the book, and how much I enjoy reading your posts!!


    • You can read vicariously through me. I promise I’ll read some sci-fi and fantasy soon. 🙂

      I really enjoyed this book, but I don’t think it would translate well to film. Everything is happening on such an internal level, there wouldn’t be much to look at!


  2. agreed – looking at the picture along the upper right there – i thought those were my shelves! Love the Klima, just finishing up some Nabokov, even “Object of Beauty” lays on top of my Ms ’cause there was no room on its arrival! Embers was one of those books that felt right and stayed with, resonant


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