Friday, April 18, 2008
I love this week. I have had all the time in the world to catch up on all my reading. I finished the fourth book in my Orbis Terrarum Challenge. For a change, I moved from Asian side of things that i seemed to be stuck to and decided to head to Hungary. It was a good decision.
The place: A castle at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains
The Country: The Austria-Hungary or the Austro-Hungarian empire (This dissolved at the end of world war I to give rise to two independent countries)
The date: August 14th, 1939.
A memory: July 2nd, 1899
After 41 years and 43 days, to be exact, the general gets a chance to finally get some answers to the questions that have plagued him for the past four decades.
The book revolves mainly around a dinner and post-dinner conversation between the general and his closest friend that he's meeting after 41 years.. For most part, it is a monologue..by the general. But Konrad's silence is more eloquent. The general, through his monologue, describes the events of a hunt and a dinner 41 years ago. The events have had a major impact on his life because he recollects minute details of the events and the surroundings like it happened the previous day. He knows the facts but he wants the answers.
Once you pick up the book, you want to keep reading until you find out what the events were..and once you find out what the events were, you want to know what Konrad has to say to defend himself..but more than that, you want to read the book for the way it has been written. Monologues by the general don't bore you. Somehow, the monologues tell you more about Konrad than they do about the General himself. What starts as pity towards the general for being stuck at the wrong end of love triangle, soon turns to an understanding of Konrad though he doesn't speak a word and then, at the end, turns again to pity towards the general, a pity because he still respects a friendship that never was....
The power of words is seen in this novel. It is truly a beautiful beautiful book. This is not a book where you read to understand the events.. you read the book to drown in the writing.. to untangle the web of emotions that Marai has created with just words..
What better conclusion to this post than the closing lines of the novel?
"But like every kiss, this one is an answer, a clumsy but tender answer to a question that eludes the power of knowledge."
Need I say more?