Portraits of a Marriage

Portraits of a Marriage

  • January 23, 2023
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  • Genel
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“the importance of pimiento-filled olives”

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

It was my first book from Sándor Márai, a Hungarian writer, I suppose it is also the first book I read from Hungarian Literature, at least that I am aware of. I was positively suprised. I read the English translation of the book by George Szirtes and I was wondering how they were originally put in Hungarian, it was a very delicious reading I would say in Turkish. It gets a 4,5/5 from me.

I had no idea about the content of the book, we chose it in our book club of Sankt Georg Graduates in Germany. So I began reading, a woman was talking to a friend as they have just seen her ex. She begins telling the story and goes into deeper and deeper. She suspected an another woman and she was right in the end. Then in the second part, her ex begins to tell, the stories complete each other everytime someone else adds his/her own part. The third part is the “other woman”. It is not just a love story or a betrayal story, it is having a background of the world war and class clashes. I was very impressed by the observations of each character, that is why I had a lot of highlights (you can see below).

Telling you the truth I did not suspect an another woman, first I thought her ex was gay! Apparently that was not the case, I find it a bit exaggerating that the ex is obsessed with the maid at home. Although they did not really have much encounters. I cannot imagine that the sexual tension of only some encounters wasso strong that it lasted more than a decade… In the end you also figure out it was not “real love”, not a two sided one… That was a bit shocking for me. Definetly a recommendation from me!

What impressed me?

something that didn’t fit the picture I had of him—I mean the picture I had been painting of him in my own soul. s:15

Love is the fiercest kind of selfishness. s:20

He loved me, no question about it. But at the same time it was as if he were merely tolerating me in his house, in his very life. s:22

I knew he didn’t enjoy traveling with me, because he feared the closeness implied by a journey, feared the days when two people are thrown entirely on each other’s resources in a hotel room in a strange place. s:31

that we live between such infinitely divided shores, in a world of such vast distances.s:73

Poverty and sickness have this miraculous power of completely changing one’s priorities; one’s sentimental and psychological values go out the window. s:76

As long as you are crying out for vengeance, he is gleefully rubbing his hands together, because vengeance is desire too: vengeance is dependency. s:113

She sensed that I was teaching her and was offended. People are offended by all sorts of things. s:127

We can’t be sure that having a child, an heir, is the solution to the deeper crisis in any individual’s life. The law says it does, of course, but life is not a product of law. s:141

liberation from the narrow confines and melancholy clutter of our house. It stripped me of the clothes I had to wear in order to perform my parts back home, and let me lose myself in the traffic of the world. s: 181

something more mysterious than a quick fly-by-night affair. s:181

There’s no escape from sexual tension: it’s there in literature, in paintings, on the stage, and out in the street … s: 182

Writers spend their lives cooking such things up: they use the emotion to blackmail the audience. s:182

But jealousy is nothing more than vanity. s:183

She always wanted something different. And she always wanted to go somewhere different. s:208

But now that the barriers were down, the barriers raised between her and the world by poverty, some tide had burst its banks in her. s:208

It was always something else she wanted: always something different. s:208

She would look at me all but helplessly, as if she could not help her poverty and her memories. s:208

She had risen from the ranks of the poor simply because she was beautiful, a woman, and because I desired her. s:216

Any love preceded by an extended period of waiting— though maybe it’s not exactly romantic love when just a few cinders remain unconsumed by the purgatorial fires of waiting—hopes for a miracle from both the other and itself. s:218

It isn’t beauty we most want—after a while we stop noticing the beauty, anyway. s:218

Love for her was not a series of occasional meetings but a constant return to a familiar childhood base: a blend of homecoming and festival; the dark-brown light over a field at dusk, the taste of certain familiar foods, the excitement and anticipation, and, under it all, the confidence that once evening came, there would be nothing to fear in the flight of the bat, just the road home at dusk. s:219

But women never really die for a country: they die for a man. Every time. Joan of Arc and the others are the exceptions, masculine women. s:221

love, true love, is always fatal. s:221

All nature wants is to beget and destroy: that is its business. s:222

In all true life there comes a moment when a man is so deep in passion, it is as if he had cast himself into the waters of Niagara without a life belt. I don’t believe in love that begins like a picnic, a holiday excursion complete with rucksack and singing and sunbeams breaking through the boughs … s:222

Passion does not celebrate holidays! s:222

The true lovers, I mean. The courageous, the few, the chosen. The rest simply hope to find a woman the way they might a beast of burden, or to spend a few hours in sweetly pale and comforting arms, either to flatter their male or female vanity, or to satisfy the legal demands of a biological urge … But that’s not love. s:223

Because the body remembers, you know, it never forgets. It’s like a sea and a shore that once belonged together. s: 224

It was the pathological fury of the over-compensation that worried me. s:225

too; the electric polisher that buffed the parquet so bright you could see your face in it. I used to stop sometimes and simply gaze at myself like those nymphs in the ancient Greek reliefs … s:247

After all, there was a young man in the house, still just a student, and it was not unlikely that sooner or later the young man would
want to get familiar with the new scullery maid, who had, for all purposes, just been plucked out of the ditch
. They worried in case he caught TB or the pox off me. s:248

My poor mother gave birth to six children in a ditch, but I never once heard her complain of a terrible migraine. That’s probably because she had never heard of migraine, and as far as she knew it might be some kind of food or drink. s:249

I felt someone brought up like this, in a place like this, could never be a whole person. They could only be a copy of a person, something that resembles a human being. s:264

He wanted to buy me like he would some fancy breed of dog—that’s what I felt. I s:285

Love and being in love don’t go together, you know. s:287

If it was only my skin or flesh he wanted, he didn’t have to marry me—he could have had that cheaper. Maybe he wanted to rebel against the world he grew up in, the way the sons of the rich rebel and become refined, faintly scented revolutionaries. Who knows why? s:308

and I could see his face through my tears, the way women see the baby’s face when the child is still inside them. You don’t need eyes to see what is yours. s:310

Taste is an aspect of culture,” he said, and raised his hand, like a conductor in a concert waving in some crescendo of destruction. “And it’s all vanishing. It will vanish even if elements of it remain. s:331

We can only rule over you men as long as we can hurt you. s:349

it seemed, he had already given up the bridges, the fields, the people. It was only the Hungarian language he believed in by then: that was his home. s:351

She was so lonely in Rome, she was like a virgin widow mourning for a guy who’d died before they could get married. s:392

Written by EGe