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Márai, Sándor 1900-1989 (Sándor Károly Henrik Grosschmid)

Márai, Sándor 1900-1989 (Sándor Károly Henrik Grosschmid)

PERSONAL:

Born April 11 1900, in Kassa, Austria-Hungary (now Kosice, Slovakia); immigrated to the United States; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1957; committed suicide, February 21, 1989, in San Diego, CA; son of Géza Grosschmid (a government official); married Lola Matzner, 1923; children: Kristof, János (adopted son). Education: Attended Péter Pázmány.

CAREER:

Editor at Budapesti Napló, 1900; Frankfurter Zeitung, journalist, 1920; Radio Free Europe, 1952-67; freelance write.

MEMBER:

Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Kossuth Prize, 1990.

WRITINGS:

Egy r Velencébol; verses játék, két felvonásban, Occidental Press (Washington, DC), 1960.

Napló (1945-1957) (diaries), Occidental Press (Washington, DC), 1968, reprinted, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1990.

Napló, 1976-1983 (diaries), Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1984.

A Garrenek muve: regény két kötetbe, Stephen Vorosvary-Weller (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.

A Gyertyák csonkig égnek (novel), Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1990, translated by Carol Brown Janeway as Embers, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.

Kassai polgárok: dráma három felvonásban, hat képben, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1990.

Egy Polgár vallomásai, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1990.

Ami a Naplóból Kimaradt: 1945-1946 (diaries), Vorosvary (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

Béke Ithakában: regény, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1991.

Csutora, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1991.

Föld, föld!—: emlékezések, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1991, translation with introduction and notes by Albert Tezla published as Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948, Corvina/Central European University Press (Budapest, Hungary), 1996.

Füves könyv, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1991.

Vendégjáték Bolzanóban, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1991, translation by George Szirtes published as Casanova in Bolzano, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.

Az Igazi, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1992.

Ihlet és nemzedék, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1992.

Judit—és az utóhan, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1992.

A Szegények iskolája, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1992.

Szindbád hazamegy, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1992.

Napló, 1958-1967 (diaries), Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1993.

Napló, 1968-1975 (diaries), Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1993.

Válás Budán, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1993.

A Delfin visszanézett: válogatott versek, 1919-1977, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1994.

Ismeretlen kínai költo: Kr. után a XX. századból: kézirat gyanánt, Balassi (Budapest, Hungary), 1994.

Istenek nyomában: oetirajz, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1994.

Vasárnapi krónika, Akademiai Kiadó (Budapest, Hungary), 1994.

Európa elrablása, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1995.

San Gennaro vére, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1995.

Zendülok; Féltékenyek, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1995.

Az Idegenek; Sértodöttek. A hang, Akademiai Kiadó: Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1996.

Kassai örjarat, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1999.

Napló, 1984-1989, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 1999.

Éltem egyszer én, Márai Sándor: fotók, emlékek, dokumentumok az író életébol, Helikon: Petofi Irodalmi Muzeum (Budapest, Hungary), 2000.

Szabadulás, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 2000.

(With Zsuzsa Szonyi) Vandor es idegen: Marailevelek, emlekek (correspondence), Kortars (Budapest, Hungary), 2000.

Eszter hagyatéka és három kisregény, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 2001.

Palackposta Márai Sándortól, közzéteszi Szigeti Jeno, Bibor (Miskolc, Hungary), 2001.

Röpirat: a nemzetnevelés ügyében, Kalligram (Pozsony, Hungary), 2001.

Les Confessions d'un bourgeois (autobiography; title means "The Confessions of a Bourgeois"), Livre de Poche (Paris, France), 2002.

Kedves Tibor! Márai Sándor és Simányi Tibor levelezése, 1969-1989, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 2003.

Márai beszél: interjoek, nyilatkozatok, Bibor (Miskolc, Hungary), 2004.

Kötetben meg nem jelent elbeszélések, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 2004.

Napnyugati orjárat: egy utazás regénye, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 2004.

Szabadulas (novel), 2005.

Bölcsességek januártól decemberig, Helikon (Budapest, Hungary), 2005.

The Rebels (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of Peace in Ithaca, [England], 1952; and Land, Land: A Memoir (also published as Land Ahoy!) The author's novels have been published in numerous languages, including Polish, Dutch, and Italian.

ADAPTATIONS:

Several of Márai's works have been adapted for film, including the play Kaland—Das letzte Abenteuer, 1943; A Gyertyák csonkig égnek, 2006; Eszter hagyatéka és három kisregény, c. 2008; and Embers.

SIDELIGHTS:

Born Sándor Károly Henrik Grosschmid, Sándor Márai began his career as a journalist and then became one of Hungary's most noted writers, whose works include novels, plays, poetry, essays, diaries, and memoirs. The prolific author had thirty-nine books published in Hungary between 1928 and 1948, when Communist rule following World War II led him to leave the country, first going to Italy and eventually settling in San Diego, California. Many of the author's novels, which have been compared to the works of Thomas Mann and Gyula Krúdy, document the decline of the middle class in Hungary. Tibor Fischer noted in the Guardian that Márai was "considered by many to be the finest writer of prose in the Hungarian language. Although Márai had his first story published when he was fifteen and was still writing when he died, he was largely forgotten by the time he committed suicide in 1989 following the death of his wife and adopted son. However, the news of his death resulted in a renewed interest in the author, leading to some of his novels becoming best sellers in Italy and Germany. Since then, the U.S. publisher Alfred A. Knopf has released several English translations of his works.

Embers, published in Hungary as A Gyertyák csonkig égnek, which roughly translates as "The Candel Stump," is the first of Márai's novels to be translated into English in the United States. Several critics have noted that the plot of Embers may appear to some readers to be mundane and clichéd, but they quickly point out that it provides a highly literary examination of loneliness. Dan Schneider, writing on the Hackwriters Web site, pointed out that Embers "is great in how it dares cliché, and surmounts it." Fischer similarly commented: "Describing the story of Embers is almost to do it a disservice."

The novel begins as the aging, retired Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army soldier known simply as "General" invites his best and oldest friend, Konrad, to his castle near the Carpathian Mountains shortly after the death of his wife, Krisztina. Both in the twilight of their lives, the General and Konrad are meeting again for the first time in forty-one years because Konrad had left his homeland to become a British citizen. The rest of the novel is a colloquy between the two men that primarily features the General, who, in a sense, interrogates Konrad about his life and their past. Through a series of recollections, the reader learns that Konrad left the country abruptly after a stag hunt, resigning his commission and moving to the tropics. At that same time, the General and his wife began living apart. The question is whether or not Konrad had an affair with the General's wife. "The whole novel is dripping with fraught and menacing symbolism, maybe even over-insistently so," commented Nicholas Lezard in the Guardian. Nevertheless, Lezard continued: "But it is striking and coherent, and it works."

Embers also received widespread critical praise in the United States. New York Times Book Review contributor Richard Eder commented: "Sandor Márai's lustrous novel about an adulterous affair in turn-of-the-century Austria-Hungary could be taken for a jeweled antique, with its setting on a vast Hungarian estate and in Vienna's imperial establishment, its powerful undercurrent of suspense and its elegantly wrought armature of moral and metaphysical argument." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Embers "a major rediscovery" and "a small, beautifully fashioned masterpiece."

In his novel Vendégjáték Bolzanóban, translated as Casanova in Bolzano, the author features as his protagonists the real-life Giacomo Casanova, an eighteenth-century Venetian known today for his amorous tales but who was also an all-around adventurer and man of letters. In Márai's tale, Casanova has just escaped from prison in Venice and fled to Bolzano. In the beginning of the novel, the author portrays Casanova as the lover and bigger-than-life personality that he was in real life. However, soon the aging Duke of Parma and his beautiful, younger wife, Francesca, appear on the scene. Casanova and the duke had fought a duel over Francesca years earlier, with the duke winning and laying claim to Francesca. The duke has requested to see Casanova, despite the fact that he warned Casanova to never appear before him again. Like the story in Embers, the novel features two rivals once again encountering each other in a battle of words and memories. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Chandrahas Choudhury noted that "this time there is also a third character, Francesca, circling on an independent trajectory." Choudhury added: "Out of this deliciously unstable set of elements Márai fashions a marvelous denouement, one that we feel expresses the truth about the natures of each of the characters without shortchanging any." Review of Contemporary Fiction contributor Michael Pinker concluded that this "stunning portrait of a celebrity confronting his bubble of reputation is a tour-de-force not to be missed."

The Rebels was published in the United States in 2007 and was Márai's fourth novel, first published when he was only thirty. "It's a darkly comic, war-ravaged coming-of-age tale that displays much of the genius visible in his later works, but it's also funnier and more extravagantly imaginative than those books might have led one to expect," according to Arthur Phillips in the New Yorker. The story features a group of Hungarian youths who are facing imminent death as they are likely to be called to fight on the front during the final days of World War I. As the title suggests, the boys are rebellious, finding the social order fostered by their parents and other adults to be absurd. Their lives change drastically, however, when they meet an old man who was once an actor but now is a pawnbroker with something ominous about him. "Rendered in sumptuous prose, this is a deeply penetrating novel of psychology," observed Brad Hooper in Booklist. Tibor Fischer, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted: "You read a sentence and then 10 minutes later you find yourself thinking, What did he really mean by that? You'll be wondering about The Rebels a long time after you've put it down."

Márai was also an avid diary writer. Many of his diaries have been published. Among the later diaries, the author recounts the final years of his life and the grief he experiences over the loss of his wife and adopted son. World Literature Today critic George Gomori, reviewing the diary Napló, 1984-1989, called it "a gift to those readers who are willing to follow Márai into the prisonlike existence of his declining years." The author's novel Szabadulas was published posthumously in 2005 and tells the story of the so-called "liberation" of Hungary from the rule of the Third Reich only to find a new oppressor in the form of the Soviet Union. "Márai must have had reservations about his novel, and that is why he has never tried to get it published," Gomori surmised in a review for World Literature Toady. Nevertheless, Gomori added: "Students of his work are nevertheless fortunate that this manuscript survived and eventually came to light, for … it shows the ambiguity of the experience of Hungary's liberation by the Soviets."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Márai, Sándor, Les Confessions d'un bourgeois, Livre de Poche (Paris, France), 2002.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 1992, reviews of Napló, 1976-1983 and A Gyertyák csonkig égnek, p. 1588; November 1, 1994, reviews of A Szegények iskolája and Csutora, p. 483; September 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of Embers, p. 193; November 1, 2004, Brendan Driscoll, review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 464; March 15, 2007, Brad Hooper, review of The Rebels, p. 25.

Bookseller, October 12, 2001, Carol Brown Janeway, "A Hungarian Jewel," p. 34.

Guardian (London, England), January 5, 2002, Tibor Fischer, review of Embers; February 15, 2003, Nicholas Lezard, review of Embers.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of Embers, p. 1154; September 15, 2004, review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 886.

Kliatt, May, 2004, Bernard Cooperman, review of Embers, p. 46.

L'Express International, January 20, 1994, Paul-Jean Franceschini, review of Les Confessions d'un Bourgeois, p. 62.

Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Barbara Hoffert, review of Embers, p. 113; March 1, 2007, Edward Cone, review of The Rebels, p. 75.

Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2001, review of Embers, p. 6; January 15, 2002, Scott Martelle, "After Death, a Literary Rebirth; Sandor Márai's Works Are Discovered Posthumously by His Family and the English-Speaking World," p. 1.

Maclean's, June 16, 2003, review of Embers, p. 89.

New Statesman, February 18, 2002, Francis Gilbert, "The Day of the Hunt," review of Embers, p. 56.

Newsweek International, January 10, 2005, "Rescued from Oblivion; the Astonishing Marai Revival," p. 49.

New Yorker, April 2, 2007, Arthur Phillips, "Dangerous Games," p. 80.

New York Review of Books, December 20, 2001, J.M. Coetzee, review of Les Confessions d'un bourgeois, p. 42; December 20, 2001, J.M. Coetzee, reviews of Embers, Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948, and Land, Land: A Memoir, p. 42.

New York Times Book Review, October 14, 2001, Richard Eder, review of Embers, p. 9; October 21, 2001, review of Embers, p. 34; December 2, 2001, review of Embers, p. 64; September 1, 2002, Scott Veale, review of Embers, p. 16; December 8, 2002, review of Embers, p. 81; December 5, 2004, Richard Lourie, "Cad Lit," p. 74; April 29, 2007, Tibor Fischer, "Hungarian Graffiti," p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, August 20, 2001, review of Embers, p. 53; October 4, 2004, review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 67; January 22, 2007, review of The Rebels, p. 158.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2001, Michael Pinker, review of Embers, p. 205; summer, 2005, Michael Pinker, review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 135.

San Francisco Chronicle, November 28, 2004, Chandrahas Choudhury, review of Casanova in Bolzano.

Spectator, February 9, 2002, Byron Rogers, review of Embers, p. 42.

Times Literary Supplement, January 11, 2002, Alan Brownjohn, "Burnt-Out Candles," p. 19; December 6, 2002, review of Embers, p. 8; November 19, 2004, Jonathan Keates, "Casanova's Rival," p. 24.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 6, 2002, review of Embers, p. 2; March 23, 2003, review of Embers, p. 6.

Vogue, November, 2004, Adena Spingarn, "Kiss and Tell," review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 282.

Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2001, Bella Stander, review of Embers, p. 10; March 6, 2003, Terry Teachout, "Three Cheers for ‘un-American’ Literary Fiction," p. 8.

Washington Post Book World, November 7, 2004, Craig Nova, "Hot Pursuit," review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 7.

Weekly Standard, February 28, 2005, Cynthia Grenier, review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 39.

World and I, July, 2002, review of Embers, p. 243; July, 2002, Lee Congdon, "A Bourgeois Manque—in This Rediscovered Masterpiece, One of Central Europe's Finest Writers Poses Fundamental Questions about Human Existence," review of Embers, p. 243.

World Literature Today, summer, 2000, George Gomori, review of Napló, 1984-1989, p. 614; summer, 2000, George Gomori, review of Vandor es idegen: Marai-levelek, emlekek, p. 614; spring, 2001, George Gomori, review of Szabadulas; May-August, 2005, Clara Gyorgyey, review of Casanova in Bolzano, p. 90.

ONLINE

Frankfurt '99 Web site,http://www.frankfurt.matav.hu/angol/ (November 2, 2007), biographical information on Sándor Márai.

Hackwriters,http://www.hackwriters.com/ (November 1, 2007), Dan Schneider, review of Embers.

Hindu,http://www.hinduonnet.com/ (November 2, 2007), David Davidar, "The Trauma of Friendship," review of Embers.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (November 2, 2007), information on Sándor Márai's film work.

Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (February 17, 2005), Mary Whipple, review of Casanova in Bolzano.

San Diego House of Hungary Web site,http://www.sdmagyar.org/ (November 2, 2007), biography of Sándor Márai.

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