or, The Surprisingly Awesome Ramblings of Old Men
I never knew, or would have ever dreamed to think, that such drama could be caused by two rambling, decrepit old men. We’re talking love triangles, best friend betrayals, war, attempted murder, even some weird sexual attraction between the main character and his maid. Embers by Hungarian author Sandor Marai could well be fit for a melodramatic daytime soap opera or perhaps even a new MTV hit show. Picture it: It’s The Jersey Shore, only in the Carpathian Mountains!
Unfortunately the two characters of interest, Henrik and Konrad, are disparagingly old (they repeatedly state how they’re practically about to fall over into their graves at any moment), not quite as appealing to female audiences as the metro sexual hunkalicious male soap stars, nor as pumped as the beefcake, muscle-flaunting bros of The Jersey Shore. Thankfully (Serious. Thank GOD!) Embers is actually very well-written, and chock-full of philosophical and intellectually stimulating goodness.
Be forewarned: This is not a book for those who like to read novels where things actually happen. If you however enjoy ranting old me (who are not senile, mind you) who go on and on about lord knows what in order to make a point, as well as equally long paragraphs that take up several pages at a time, well, prepare yourself. Because you have a serious bookgasm coming your way.
I’ve done a mighty fine job of contradicting myself up to this point. Embers contains all this MTV-worthy drama, yet at the same time nothing very interesting happens in the book.
Rather than unveiling a plot in the traditional manner, Embers instead reveals all the details (at least all the juicy stuff of dramatic importance) through the recollections of these men. And while at times I did feel like I was locked in a nursing home filled with overly chatty grandparents, I also often found myself highly interested in the rants of Henrik, (also referred to as the General) which would suddenly morph into philosophical musings that both interested and even emotionally moved me.
In fact, I often felt as if I was reading a philosophy text rather than a novel. Isn’t rambling on and on what philosophers tend to do anyway? The only difference is that I could actually understand the point being made in this book. Because, yes, even for a bibliophile like myself, anything beyond Plato’s Symposium is gibberish.
It is. You know it’s true.
I suppose I am a bit biased, because these ‘musings’ are primarily on the two topics I find most fascinating and consider most important in my life: love and friendship. As well as how these two aspects of life are connected. After all, (in my humble opinion – which I’d also wager is COMPLETELY correct) isn’t friendship the basic foundation and pulsing core of what real love is?
I’ve heard talk of many people highly disliking Henrik for his dark, cutting remarks on the topics. However, I found these statements to be profound and firm with analytical truth. By no means are any of the topics comforting or self-affirming, as discussions on love and friendship would hopefully be. They in fact jolt you with a bitter sting of uncomfortable recognition, that is also (again, in my humble opinion) very refreshing.
To each their own, I suppose. I’ll end this review with some of my favorite passages from the book and let you decide for yourself what you think about the philosophy of Embers.
Hit me up with your thoughts, if you’d like. I always love a nice, juicy philosophical discussion!