Such a beautiful novel. It's atmospheric, yet moves at a surprisingly brisk pace, sometimes jumping years ahead with little to no warning. The characters are opaque in some sense yet deeply familiar and sympathetic. It is simultaneously a large scale historical novel about the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a rather moving portrait of a father-son relationship. The prose, to me at least, is just breathtaking. Here, a passage chosen at random:
She plunged into the acrid coal fumes, the whistles and steam of the shunting locomotives, the busy ringing of the signals. She was wearing a short traveling veil. She had the feeling such veils had been in fashion fifteen years ago. She was wrong: it was actually twenty five years - not even twenty! How she loved waiting on station platforms. (273)
It reminds me somewhat of Flaubert (not just because this passage could easily have come from Madame Bovary). The translator, Michael Hoffman (apparently he is a poet?) has done an absolutely incredible job. Interesting as the novel is as a portrayal of historical milieu, the real reason to read it is to bathe in the sentences, let them roll over you. So, so wonderful.