Sándor Márai

Sándor Márai (1900-1989) is well-known in England as the author of Embers, a world-wide best-selling novel. He was a prolific prose-writer and essayist, but he also wrote poetry; in fact, he began his career with the publication of a book of verse at the age of eighteen. Márai came from a patrician family from Northern Hungary (his home town was Kassa, now Kosice in Slovakia) and lived for many years in Germany and Paris before returning to Hungary.

A sophisticated writer of the middle-classes, he was at the height of his popularity at the time when Hungary entered the Second World War in alliance with Nazi Germany, a decision strongly disapproved of by Márai. In the last year of the war he went into hiding in a locality near Budapest, but Hungary`s liberation by the Soviet army did not bring about the establishment of a Western-style democracy, only (after a period of ‘democratic’ transition) Communist one-party rule, shored up the Soviet Union. When the Communist takeover seemed irreversible Márai decided to leave his native land for good – in fact he and his wife left on passports issued by the authorities who were glad to get rid of this ‘bourgeois’ writer. After some years in Italy Márai moved to the United States where he eventually died, committing suicide at the age of 89.

– from introduction by George Gömöri in MPT Series 3/2, Diaspora