The conversation about The Rebels continues today with an interview between Mark Sarvas and Arthur Philips.
MS: Perhaps I’m reading too much into your New Yorker review, but the sense that I got was that you were at some pains to say nice things about a lesser work. I’ve mentioned that I think there’s a problem for modern readers in coming to Márai in a sort of reverse order. Do you think there’s a fundamental problem coming to Márai in this order, and that readers might be better served going straight for Embers? Or is there a strong case to be made for The Rebels on its own merits?
AP: I think Rebels does just fine on its own. It’s a younger man’s book with younger characters, written at a time when Márai hadn’t seen all hell break loose in his country yet. I wasn’t trying to prop up a lesser book. And, I really don’t know what else is out there; there are a lot of Márai books still only in Hungarian. So I don’t know the direction his style took. Embers is certainly more stylistically interesting to me than Rebels, but Rebels was funny, and the language more outlandish, more under the influence, I think, of Gyula Krúdy. Embers may not be his best or most characteristic novel, so I won’t say that the way to go is to start with Embers. There are some who will get more out of starting with the memoirs, I suppose. Even Casanova in Bolzano, maybe.
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In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
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