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About the Book


Henrik, a retired general of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, has lived for years as a recluse in his castle in the Hungarian forest waiting for the arrival of Konrad, the best friend of his youth, whom he has not seen for forty-one years. The two men met when they were roommates in military school during the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Their friendship was influenced from the beginning by the vastly different circumstances of their births: Henrik was born into nobility, whereas Konrad was impoverished and living out his parents' dream for him to lead an aristocratic life. Despite these different backgrounds, their unusually close friendship persisted into adulthood. The young soldiers shared an apartment in Vienna and experienced that city at the height of its splendor. Then, after Henrik's marriage to Konrad's friend Krisztina, the threesome remained close, regularly dining together, but at their last dinner, grave events severed Henrik and Konrad's relationship, culminating in Konrad's sudden abandonment of Vienna. When the novel begins, forty-one years have passed, and Henrik has finally received word of Konrad's return.

On the evening of their reunion, the aged soldiers will engage in the most painful battle of their lives–a war of words waged to reach the truth of their past. In the course of their conversation, Henrik recounts the calamitous aftermath of Konrad's departure, and the painful betrayal that Henrik and Krisztina faced because of Konrad's actions. Now, Henrik has had a lifetime to gain the wisdom and perspective of age and to ponder not only the meaning of friendship, but also the purpose of life itself. And as the tragic mystery of their relationship subtly unravels, so too unfolds a portrait of a man shaped by a defunct empire and cleaving to the last vestiges of his obsolete nobility.

Sandor Marai, translated by Carol Brown Janeway

  • Publication Date: August 13, 2002
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0375707425
  • ISBN-13: 9780375707421