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MARAI, Sandor

Embers

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No, the secret is that there's no reward and we have to endure our characters and our natures as best we can, because no amount of experience or insight is going to rectify our deficiencies, our self-regard, or our cupidity. We have to learn that our desires do not find any real echo in the world. We have to accept that the people we love do not love us, or not in the way we hope. We have to accept betrayal and disloyalty, and, hardest of all, that someone is finer than we are in character or intelligence.

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Do you also believe that what gives our lives their meaning is the passion that suddenly invades us heart, soul, and body, and burns in us forever, no matter what else happens in our lives? And that if we have experienced this much, then perhaps we haven’t lived in vain? Is passion so deep and terrible and magnificent and inhuman? Is it indeed about desiring any one person, or is it about desiring desire itself? That is the question. Or perhaps, is it indeed about desiring a particular person, a single, mysterious other, once and for always, no matter whether that person is good or bad, and the intensity of our feelings bears no relation to that individual’s qualities or behavior?

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And I've been waiting for you, because I couldn't do anything else. And we've both known that we would meet again, and then it would be all over with life and everything that gave our existence meaning and tension. A secret of the kind that lurks between the two of us has extraordinary power. It burns through the fabric of life like a scorching beam, and yet at the same time it also gives it tensile strength. It forces us to live.

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Vienna wasn't just a city, it was a tone that either one carries forever in one's soul or one does not. It was the most beautiful thing in my life. I was poor, but I was not alone, because I had a friend. And Vienna was like another friend. When it rained in the tropics, I always heard the voice of Vienna. And at other times too. Sometimes deep in the virgin forests I smelled the musty smell of the entrance hall in Hietzing. Music and everything I loved was in the stones of Vienna, and in people's glances and their behavior, the way pure feelings are part of one's very heart. You know when the feelings stop hurting. Vienna in winter and spring. The allés in Schönbrunn. The blue light in the dormitory at the academy, the great white stairwell with the baroque statue. Morning ridings in the Prater. The mildew in the riding school. I remember all of it exactly, and I wanted to see it again...

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Friendship is no ideal state of mind; it is a law, and a strict one, on which the entire legal systems of great cultures were built. It reaches beyond personal desires and self-regard in men's hearts, its grip is greater than that of sexual desire, and it is proof against disappointment because it asks for nothing.

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... deep inside you was a frantic longing to be something or someone other than you are. It is the greatest scourge a man can suffer, and the most painful. Life becomes bearable only when one has come to terms with who one is, both in one's own eyes and in the eyes of the world. We all of us must come to terms with what and who we are, and recognize that this wisdom is not going to earn us any praise, that life is not gong to pin a medal on us for recognizing and enduring our own vanity or egoism or baldness or our pot-belly. No, the secret is that there's no reward and we have to endure our characters and our natures as best we can, because no amount of experience or insight is going to rectify our deficiencies, our self-regard, or our cupidity. We have to learn that our desires do not find any real echo in the world. We have to accept that the people we love do not love us, or not in the way we hope. We have to accept betrayal and disloyalty, and hardest of all, that someone is finer than we are in character or intelligence.

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A man who has signed away his soul and his fate to solitude is incapable of faith. He can only wait. For the day or the hour when he can talk about everything that forced him into solitude with the man or men who forced him into that condition. He prepares himself for that monument for ten or forty or forty-one years the way one prepares for a duel. He brings his affairs into order in case he dies in the duel. And he practices every day, as professional duelists do. And what weapon does he practice with? With his memories, so that he will not allow solitude and time to cloud his sight and weaken his heart and his soul. There is one duel in life, fought without sabers, that nonetheless is worth preparing for with all one's strength. And it is the most dangerous. And one day the moment comes.

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