Portraits of a Marriage
By Sandor Marai
(Vintage, Paperback, 9781400096671, 384pp.)
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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A rediscovered masterwork from famed Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai, Portraits of a Marriage tracks the lifelong entanglement of a man and two women haunted by class differences and misdirected longings.
Peter and Ilonka are a wealthy couple whose outwardly perfect marriage is undone by secrets. The insecure Ilonka believes she can never be elegant and refined enough for her husband, while Peter has long been tormented by his forbidden love for Judit, a peasant and servant in his childhood home. What Judit longs for most, however, is freedom from the constraints of the society that has ensnared all three in a vortex of love and loss. Set against the backdrop of Hungary between the wars, in a world on the verge of dramatic change, this exquisite novel offers further posthumous evidence of Marai’s brilliance.
Translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes
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 the war, but persecution by the Communists drove him from the country in 1948, first to Italy, then to the United States. He is the author of the internationally best-selling Embers, Casanova in Bolzano, Esther’s Inheritance, The Rebels, and Portraits of a Marriage.
"Portraits of a Marriage is brilliant in the acuity of its observations, its unremitting intelligence. . . . Marai gives voice to a vanished world in a chorus that is both eulogy and manifesto." —The New York Times Book Review
“Superbly readable. . . . Deeply satisfying. . . . Like Tolstoy, he has a kind of genius for the small touches that define a marriage, and also like Tolstoy, he is brilliant at dissecting the tiny differences that separate one layer of society from another.” —The Daily Beast
"With this phenomenal novel, our conviction is confirmed: he ranks as one of the twentieth century’s greatest novelists." —Booklist
"A cubist portrait of a harsh love and a dying society, elegantly paced and delightfully contradictory. . . . With each new voice [Márai] builds suspense and reveals new layers and twists to this tale. Suffused with nostalgia and regret, the book evokes and examines both the nature of longing and the decline of a great empire." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)