This is a short, and beautifully written book. It begins with Esther three years after the story begins, who has decided to write down what happened when Lajos returned and stole everything.
It was first published in its original Hungarian in 1939, the year the second world war began. Márai was profoundly anti-fascist. Whilst there are no obvious allusions to fascism or Nazism, the novel is I believe an allusion to what had been happening within Europe during the 1930’s.
Lajos calmly walked back into Esther and her family’s life and like before, took and extracted exactly what he wanted, robbing them under their noses with their absolute permission. They knew what he was and they let passively let him in without lifting a finger. Perhaps Márai is also accusing Hungary and the rest of Europe of simply letting Hitler walk in, take or give back what lands he saw fit, despite what they knew what was really happening in the war.
However, I can’t say I know very much about the history of Hungary beyond what I’ve only recently looked up on Wikipedia quite briefly.
The writing is simply quite beautiful and effortless in the way it’s been written (or translated).For twenty years I had been walking at the edge of a precipice, neatly balanced, calm and smiling. Now I had been woken and knew the truth. But I no longer felt dizziness. There is something calming about the sense of reality, whether of life or death.
It is hard to trust Esther as a narrator for what she says. After all, she willingly allows herself to be taken in by Lajos, claiming it was her duty as if it were her fate. How can you feel sympathy for a person who willingly allows someone to lie and cheat, when they say they knew the truth behind it all anyway. Why let them into your life again?
I wouldn’t say this book amazed me or made me feel anything particularly, but it is the kind of well-written book you can appreciate.