Monday, January 05, 2009

Esther's Inheritance - Sándor Márai

"Lajos is coming back !" , Esther shouted to Nunu, the old help , who is nursing the plants in the garden. She received a telegram from Lajos, the "only man she has ever loved", announcing his return after twenty years.
"We will arrive in a car, ther will be five of us" the telegram continued."We'll stay till the evening".

Lajos, was introduced to the family by Esther's brother Laci, who were friends and classmates. Soon, the entire family had fallen for his charm, despite his habits of treachery. Esther was the only person resisted his influence for some time, before falling in love with him. However, the turn of the events saw, Lajos marrying, her sister Wilma for reasons not known to her ("maybe because she was prettier, maybe because that day the wind happened to be blowing from the east") . The marriage was short lived, when Wilma died after the birth of the daughter. Soon after, Esther leave that house and come back to stay in her ancestral house along with Nunu.

Anticipation and preparation for his visit is on. Laci, Endre and Tibor( other friends and associates), all of them are victims of his dubious game earlier. Lajos, and everyone who are associated with him, life became a dangerous, exciting adventure.
"he was indebted to everyone in some way, with money, with promises, with oaths! He is coming back to face the past.."

Esther is very clear of his intentions and was prepared for the same. Even though she suspect she might be sounding happy to others after the news of his arrival, she checks her actions and keep her composure. "I knew Lajos had come because he had no choice, and that we were welcoming him because he had no choice, and the whole thing was terrifying, as unpleasant, and as unavoidable for him as it was for us."

Lajos, is a big show man. He makes his appearance dramatic and the rest of the day is staged to a preplanned design. " People don't turn away from Lajos, because his little shows are full of surprises that he himself enjoys but does not prepare. Even now, in the very moment of his arrival, he was directing, presenting, and speechifying with transparent pleasure. "

It was after the lunch when the much anticipated meeting takes place. Lajos has meticulously planned the whole thing. He sent his daughter first, before appearing by himself in front of Esther. He apologises, admits his lies and broken promises, pleads guilty, blame her for not being courageous enough, wants her to be his moral compass.. Esther plays along, but makes him aware that she is not falling to his games , as she says:
" There are times I think you're an absolute genius..the genius of lies. All the time I know you are lying, that you have always lied, right from the first moment. Your life has been one long lie. I dont even believe in your death: that will be a lie too. Oh yes, you are a genius all right."

But the visit has to have a purpose , " I have a demand. You must come away with me, with us." Was it as simple ? No.

Written in 1939, this is the fourth book to be made available in English by this awesome Hungarian author. For those who have read the earlier works, this is similar to Embers and Casanova in Bolzano. Those dramatic set up, return of a long lost lover, friend or acquaintance, the lengthy verbal dual, the unexpected ending all there. As this article talks about, for Sandor Marai, the novel is a stage, each characters are performers fulfilling their role as a theatre artist.

There was no suspense maintained here. It was made clear at the beginning of the novel that "he came and robbed me". There was no clear reason for the actions of the participants. They are all seems to be playing along to complete the pre-determined out come.

As said earlier, a strong resemblance to the Embers and Casanova in style of writing ( "The rebel" was a bit different from a narrative style) and similar construction. Though not as great when compared to Embers, I liked this novel as well.

Esthers's Inheritance
Sandor Marai ( Translated from Hungarian by George Szirtes )
148 Pages
Rs 673.20
Further read : Complete Review , L A Times

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