Chapters 1-5

From Literary

Jump to: navigation, search

Embers (1942)

A gyertyák csonkig égnek
the original Hungarian title, which translates as "the candles burn down."

(4) The Landau
A landau is a lightweight open carriage on elliptical springs, invented in the 18th century, and named after the city of Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate, French at the time (now Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany), where they were first produced. Wikipedia

(6) forty-one years
Embers therefore takes places in August, 1940. This is about a year into WWII and Germany is winning the war. Hungary did not enter the war until 1941.

if built 200 years before, the general's castle must date back to the 1740s, an important time period in Hungarian history with regards to the Austro-Hungarian relationship. As soon as Maria Theresa's reign began in 1740, Frederick the Great of Prussia invaded Silesia, igniting the War of Austrian Succession. In 1741, Maria Theresa was crowned Queen of Hungary and made a dramatic appeal for support in the Parliament of Hungary. The Magyar nobles pledged their "blood and life" and a hundred thousand soldiers.

(9) Nini was ninety-one
she was born in 1849, another important year in Austro-Hungarian relations. The Anti-Habsburg War of Independence was fought from 1848-49. With help from the Imperial Russian Army, Austria was victorious and in October 1949, the highest-ranking Hungarian leaders and generals were executed.

Marai's paternal ancestors had been of German origin but fought on the Hungarian nationalist side in 1848-49. In the wake of the defeat, the family changed the name from Grosschmid to Marai.

(14) Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar
the initials of the Three Wise Men are traditionally inscribed in chalk above doorways for the feast of manifestation, or Epiphany, traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. Unlike Catholic Austria, Hungary is fairly evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics. The doorway ritual indicates that the General is probably Catholic.

(18) Vizslas
Hungarian breed of pointing dog. Pics of vizslas.

(20) Emperors
In the 1850s, the Emperor of France was Napoleon III. The Emperor of Austria was Franz Joseph.

(21) the Puszta
refers to flat parts of the Alföld (the Great Hungarian Plain). Wikipedia

(23) portrait of the Empress
may be referring to this portrait of Empress Elisabeth (commonly known as Sisi), the wife of Franz Joseph. She was well-liked by the Hungarian people, learned to speak language fluently, and was sympathetic to the Hungarian cause that culminated in the creation of dual monarchy in 1867. She was assassinated in 1898. Wikipedia


(24) "What did you talk about?"
although destined to remain a mystery, it may be worth speculating on what the Emperor could have told the French wife of a Hungarian captain. Perhaps he offered words of understanding, or wisdom, or consolation. Any ideas?

(26) Brittany
the northwesternmost province of France. The counter-revolution that rose up against the French Revolution was centered, in large part, in Brittany, which remained staunchly Catholic and clung to its religion after the Revolution. Perhaps the General's parents married, in part, because they shared a religion.

(27) Tout de meme
"all the same?" Perhaps "completely the same," meaning that he looks just like his mother.

(29) Surcouf the pirate
Robert Surcouf (1773–1827) was a famous French privateer. During his lengendary career, he captured 47 ships and was renowned for his gallantry and chivalry, earning the nickname of Roi des Corsaires ("King of Privateers"). Wikipedia

(32) the Graben
one the the main streets of Vienna.

(37) the Prater
the large park in Vienna.

Personal tools