Knopf, Hardcover, 9780375407574, 288pp.
Publication Date: March 20, 2007
Embers . . . Casanova in Bolzano . . . and now The Rebels: the third of the rediscovered novels of the great Hungarian writer—the jolting story of a troubled group of young men on the cusp of life, and death, in World War I.
It is the summer of 1918. As graduation approaches at a boys’ academy in provincial Hungary, the senior class finds itself in a ghost town. Fathers, uncles, older brothers—all have been called to the front. Surrounded only by old men, mothers, aunts, and sisters, the boys are keenly aware that graduation will propel them into the army and imminently toward likely death on the battlefield. In the final weeks of the academic year, four of these young men—and the war-wounded older brother of one of them—are drawn tightly together, sensing in one another a mutual alienation from their bleak, death-mapped future. Soon they are acting out their frustrations and fears in a series of increasingly serious, strange, and subversive games and petty thefts. But when they attract the attention of a stranger in town—an actor with a traveling theater company—their games, and their lives, begin to move in a direction they could not have predicted and cannot control.
Sándor Márai was born in Kassa, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1900, and died in San Diego, California, in 1989. He rose to fame as one of the leading literary novelists in Hungary in the 1930s. Profoundly antifascist, he survived World War II, but persecution by the Communists drove him from the country in 1948. He went into exile, first in Italy, then in the United States.
“A darkly comic, war-ravaged coming-of-age tale that displays much of the genius visible in his later works, but [is] also funnier and more extravagantly imaginative.” —The New Yorker
“The emotional power of the story is that of a simple, straightforward narrative . . . followed by stunning revelation.” —The Boston Globe
“A morbidly comic novel . . . marked by passages of bleak elegiac grandeur.” —The New York Sun