I was lucky to find Sándor Márai’s Esther’s Inheritance in one of my favourite bookshops in Turkey. I thought it would be a great book to read while travelling. Unfortunately, as with all the books I bought without doing any research, I became a victim of my misfortune.
Esther’s Inheritance is a book that doesn’t tell anything except Eszter’s love for Lajos and what a ridiculous man Lajos is. I think the author wanted us to fall in love with Lajos too, despite all his flaws, all his lies and tricks. However, she did not succeed in this. There is nothing left for the reader other than to say “Oh Esther, why do you have to be that stupid?”. I wish I could love Lajos as much as Esther did. That would have changed my feelings towards the book.
I wouldn’t recommend this one if you’re going to read Márai for the first time.
What is it to be in love with a pathological liar and fantasist? Esther is, and has been for more than twenty years. Lajos, the liar, married her sister, and when she died, Lajos disappeared. Or did he? And Esther? She was left with her elderly cousin, the all-knowing Nunu, and a worn old house, living a life of the most modest comforts. All is well, but all is tired.
Until a telegram arrives announcing that, after all these years, Lajos is returning with his children. The news brings both panic and excitement. While no longer young and thoroughly skeptical about Lajos and his lies, Esther still remembers how incredibly alive she felt when he was around. Lajos’s presence bewitches everyone, and the greatest part of his charm—and his danger—lies in the deftness with which he wields that delicate power. Nothing good can come of this: friends rally round, but Lajos’s arrival, complete with entourage, begins a day of high theater.
Esther’s Inheritance has the taut economy of Márai’s Embers, and presents a remarkable narrator who delivers the story as both tragedy and comedy on an intimate scale that nevertheless has archetypal power.
Sándor Márai was born in Kassa, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1900, and died in San Diego, California, in 1989. He rose to fame as one of the leading literary novelists in Hungary in the 1930s. Profoundly anti-fascist, he survived World War II, but persecution by the Communists drove him from the country in 1948. He went into exile, first in Italy, then in the United States.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: