This world, through which the reader all-too-quickly passes, is etched cleanly and sparsely, and nonetheless seems complete. Description, dialogue, and the narrator’s own youthful viewpoint create a realm almost tangible, both in the squalor of the low points and the beauty of their family’s wary intimacy.
Humiliation provides no solutions, and there is no satisfying sense of resolution, but as an exploration of an unwieldy concept, it is disarmingly vulnerable, and as eloquent as it is revealing.
Albahari’s skill in immersing the reader in this grim conclusion justifies the energy required to follow the story, which at times feels like listening to a friend breathlessly recount a particularly confusing dream.
“Spanning late fin de siècle Budapest to the conclusion of World War II, Sándor Márai’s Portraits of a Marriage focuses on the insurmountable effect of class on relationships and the tension rippling across Europe during this period.”