Book #99: Embers

It’s taken me some time to process Embers. It was written by a Hungarian author named Sandor Marai and has only recently been “rediscovered” and translated into English for the rest of us to enjoy. Apparently Hungarians have been enjoying Marai’s work for over half a century now. I never really think about how much good stuff I’m missing out on reading because it hasn’t been translated into English. To be honest, it kind of freaks me out a little bit. Language is awesome, but really stupid when you just want to read good stuff but there’s a language barrier.

I always enjoy when stories focus on relationships between people and explore how those relationships move on from different conflicts. My favorite TV show is Gilmore Girls because at its core, it focuses on the Gilmores repairing their relationship after Lorelai runs away with Rory. Embers is two friends dealing with an event that destroyed a friendship for the ages and drove two men apart.

Two friends, now old men who haven’t spoken in forty years, meet up one last time to discuss a mysterious event that ruined their friendship and drove them apart and left one living in self-exile in his hunting lodge, unable to bring himself to go back to the castle he grew up in, and the other fleeing to the tropics and an altogether different life.

They’re back together at the end of their lives for one last night, to try and rehash their friendship and figure out what happened between them.

What was really interesting about Embers was how much of the story was in what wasn’t said, as opposed to what was said. A lot of the tension between the characters comes not from what they do say together now that they are finally reunited, but what, after all these years, they can’t bring themselves to say to each other. What’s interesting is that even the narrator leaves certain things unsaid. Not only can the two old men not say certain things to each other, but they have trouble admitting things at the heart of the issue even to themselves.

What I really liked about Embers is its focus on friendship. The men have been friends since they met as boys at military school in Vienna. They are inseparable and as they grow up they try to keep their relationship as pure and innocent as possible. Though one of them eventually gets married, his best friend is still a key factor in his life. The estrangement from his friend hurts and affects him more strongly than his estrangement from his wife.

It’s interesting to explore this tension outside of a romantic context. As someone who is very familiar with things being left unsaid in important conversations, but who hasn’t had much experience in the romance department, I appreciated this book.

Embers is a good read. Interestingly, I didn’t appreciate it as much while I was reading it as I do now that I’m reflecting on it. I find that that happens a lot with books. I don’t fully appreciate them until I talk about them. I guess I’m really glad I’m doing this blog.

Rating: ****
Up Next: Shroud
(Book #100. WOW. I feel like I should do something special. Maybe I’ll have to figure something out.)

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