This is the 3rd novel for me of this famous Hungarian writer, of the three that had been translated to English. Sandor Marai is a prolific writer, who got the due recognition posthumously, surprised the world with the translation of Embers, considered to be one of the best novelist of 20th century. Rebels, written in 1930, is about four high school boys few days/weeks prior to their graduation, during the period of World War I. Graduation not only means the end of their school days, but a definite entry into the military service as like other men of their country. The town, already without grown up men, who are fighting the battle at the frontiers; Fathers, elder brothers, uncles all have been in at the battle field. Women folks, young kids yet to qualify for military service , old people and other invalids ( injured in action and people with lost limbs) fills the inhabitants of the town. The four boys are drawn together, not by the common interest they carry, but more as the common rebellious nature of their life. The alienation from the family, from the friends and the rest of the society is what binds them together. War wounded elder brother of one of them and a mysterious actor of the local theatre form the part of their extended circle. They indulge in activities of rebellious nature and of frustration and anger. The game soon become serious as it gets into small time thefts from their home. This events soon gets out of control and this has become a point of n return. The distrust and frustration grows among the members before a disastrous end.
A novel about adolescent life and coming of age. Though there is no direct impact of the on going war in their life, the effect of this is visible in the behaviour of people.
Its about the despair and fear of imminent call of duty and the loss of hope. Very negative emotion through out the book with no hopes of recovery. Not a single character shows signs of optimism and happiness. There is an urge to continue playing the childhood pranks, against the certain demand to grow up as men and join the forces. With subtle under currents of love and homosexuality, comradeship , this is more about distrust and treachery.
Though an interesting book of a great writer, it does not live up to the expectations what 'Embers' and 'Casanova ..' raised.
Here is a blog site dedicated to this writer , have a look.
Here is what David Leavitt ( author of "Indian Cleark") has to say about this book and Sandor Marai..
PS : some interesting thoughts from the book:
"What he wanted to know was why the books existed. Do they bring joy to those who write them ? He felt they must cause more pain than pleasure. And if you write something down, is it then lost, does it have nothing to do with you anymore, is there a only a memory , an ache left behind, as if you had been found guilty of something, something for which sooner or later, you would have to answer."