The candles burn all the way

Sándor Márai :: illustration by Ignácio Schiefelbein










“A person ages slowly: first, our taste for life and people gets old, and then everything becomes so real, we get to know the meaning of things, everything is repeated so terrible and fastidiously. This is also old age. When you know that a body is not more than a body. And a man, poor man, is nothing more than a man, a mortal being, no matter what he does…


Then your body gets old; but not the whole body at the same time – first the eyes, or the legs; the stomach, or the heart. This is how a person ages, little by little. Then, suddenly, the soul begins to age: because no matter how weak and decrepit the body is, the soul is still filled with desires and memories, seeks and delights itself, wishes pleasure. And when this desire for pleasure ends, nothing remains but memories, or vanity; and this is when you get old for real, fatal and ultimately.


One day you wake up and rub your eyes: you no longer know why you woke up. You know exactly what the day brings you: spring or winter, the usual scenarios, the time, the order of life. Nothing unexpected can happen: not even that which is unexpected surprises you, nor the unusual or awful, because you know the odds, you have it all figured out, you no longer expect anything, neither good nor evil… and that’s just old age.”


I find this small excerpt from the book “The candles burn all the way” by Sandor Márai (Ed. Dom Quixote, Portugal, 2001) very touching for the sensitivity when describing the loss of the soul’s pleasures to aging and death. A Hungarian man, Márai self-exiled in 1948, unhappy with the communist regime in his country, and lived in Switzerland, Italy and France before settling in San Diego (where, at the age of 89, committed suicide). His writings often depict the decay of the bourgeoisie in his country, always with an eye turned to man’s major emotional issues: love, passion, life, pain, decay and death.


You will find pleasure in reading ‘De verdade’ (For real), ‘As Brasas’ (The Hot Coals), ‘Divórcio em Buda’ (Divorce in Buddha) and ‘Libertação’ (Freedom), all published in Brazil by Editora Companhia das Letras.