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Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Embers (1941) by Sandor Marai

Book Review
Embers (1941)
 by Sandor Marai

  The 1941 publication date for Embers references the publication of the Hungarian original.  The English version wasn't published until 2000 and it was based on a prior German translation, so the English version is a translation of a translation.  The edition I read was a paperback of that original English language translation was some kind of a publishing event.  The cover bears a laudatory vote from Alice "the Lovely Bones" Sebold.   Her presence on the cover somewhat prejudiced me against the contents, but I'm pleased to report that Embers is a fun, light read about two old friends who meet in a forest redoubt in the dying Austrian Empire prior to the beginning of World War II. 

 Whether it be a tribute to an adept translation or the author himself, Embers very much reads like the kind of contemporary fiction that does well on the Bestseller chart and spawns movie adaptations.   Perhaps unfortunately for those who only see movie versions of popular books, there are no ghosts or werewolves, so it's unclear whether we will get a movie version of Embers.

 Even though Embers was written in Hungarian by a Hungarian, it very much belongs to Austrian/Central European literature rather than representing some kind of emerging Hungarian national literature.  In fact, the existence of a prior German translation giving birth to the English translation makes all the sense in the world.


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