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Portraits of a Marriage
Synopses & Reviews
A rediscovered masterwork from the famed Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai, Portraits of a Marriage is in fact a startling exploration of a triangle of entanglement.
A wealthy couple in bourgeois society, Peter and Ilonka appear to enjoy a fine union. Their home is tastefully decorated; their clothes are well tailored; they move in important circles. And yet, to hypersensitive Ilonka, her choice in décor is never good enough, and her looks are never fair enough to fully win the love of her husband, who has carried with him a secret that has long tormented him: Peter is in love with Judit, a peasant and servant in his childhood home. For Judit, however, even Peters affection cannot transcend that which she loves most—the prospect of her own freedom and a future without 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, Portraits of a Marriage offers further “posthumous evidence of [Márais] neglected brilliance” (Chicago Tribune) and his exquisite, acutely observed evocations of sacrifice and longing.
"This autopsy of a failed marriage shows a virtuosic control of character and tone meaningfully set against the ossification of the fin de siÃ¨cle Austro-Hungarian empire. It starts with Ilonka, whose middle-class husband, Peter, is in love with his mother-in-law's maid, Judit. Ilonka's bitter tale of a fight to win her husband back, only to be outdone by the other woman, gives way to the same story told by Peter, itself followed by Judit's take. What emerges is a cubist portrait of a harsh love and a dying society, elegantly paced and delightfully contradictory. Ilonka, Peter, and Judit each possess strong philosophies on life and love, and MÃ¡rai successfully probes the blind spots and conflicting assumptions in their varied points of view. With each new voice, each very much its own thanks to Szirtes's faultless new translation, MÃ¡rai (1900 — 1989) 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. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
A masterwork from the famed Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai, Portraits of a Marriage is in fact a portrait of a triangle—three passionate, single-minded lovers fighting over the marriage at the center, each of them bearing the capacity to love irrationally to an irreparable degree.
A wealthy couple in bourgeois society, Peter and Ilona appear to enjoy a fine union. But each of them loves someone or something different. For Ilona, it is Peter. For Peter, it is their child but also the servant, Judit. And for Judit, it is her very future. The result is a vortex of love, sacrifice, and self-preservation fromwhich there is no escape.
Set against the backdrop of Hungary between the wars, Portraits of a Marriage offers further “posthumous evidence of [Márai’s] neglected brilliance” (Chicago Tribune).
About the Author
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.
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