The Door – Magda Szabó, 1 Amazing Character

The Door is one of the most popular books by Hungarian author Magda Szabo. It has not lost anything from its popularity since it was published in 1987. And I’m sure it will be among the ones to be read for many years to come. There is a timeless writer and his book, as you can see.


The Door - Magda Szabó

The Door is a book about a writer in post-war Hungary and the elderly helper who helps her with the housework. When Emerenc enters the author’s life like a storm with her extraordinary personality, the meticulousness of her works despite her age and many more features, the author makes room for this interesting woman, unaware of what will happen in the future.

Although the relationship between them covers a period of twenty years, the author, who never learned the entire life of Emerenc, changes all her thoughts from religion to politics with Emerenc. In fact, there are some things that we all know but can’t bring to life; Emerenc is the opposite of us; she is all there. I am sure you will read The Door with great interest and enthusiasm. Enjoy!

The Door - Magda Szabó

The Door

A busy young writer struggling to cope with domestic chores, hires a housekeeper recommended by a friend. The housekeeper’s reputation is one built on dependable efficiency, though she is something of an oddity. Stubborn, foul-mouthed and with a flagrant disregard for her employer’s opinions she may even be crazy. She allows no-one to set foot inside her house; she masks herself with a veil and is equally guarded about her personal life.

And yet Emerence is revered as much as she is feared. As the story progresses her energy and passion to help becomes clear, extinguishing any doubts arising out of her bizarre behaviour. A stylishly told tale which recounts a strange relationship built up over 20 years between a writer and her housekeeper. After an unpromising and caustic start benign feelings develop and ultimately the writer benefits from what becomes an inseparable relationship. Simultaneously we learn Emerence’s tragic past which is revealed in snapshots throughout the book.

Magda Szabó

Magda Szabó (October 5, 1917 – November 19, 2007) was a Hungarian novelist. Doctor of philology, she also wrote dramas, essays, studies, memoirs, poetry and children’s literature. She was a founding member of the Digital Literary Academy, an online digital repository of Hungarian literature. She is the most translated Hungarian author, with publications in 42 countries and over 30 languages.

Magda Szabó was born in Debrecen, Austria-Hungary in 1917. In 1940, she graduated from the University of Debrecen as a teacher of Latin and of Hungarian. She began teaching in the same year at the Protestant Girls Boarding School in Debrecen and Hódmezővásárhely. From 1945 to 1949, she worked in the Ministry of Religion and Education. She married the writer and translator Tibor Szobotka (1913–1982) in 1947.

The Door - Magda Szabó

Szabó began her writing career as a poet and published her first book of poetry, Bárány (“Lamb”), in 1947, which was followed by Vissza az emberig (“Back to the Human”) in 1949. In 1949 she was awarded the Baumgarten Prize, which was immediately withdrawn when Szabó was labeled an enemy to the Communist Party. She was dismissed from the Ministry in the same year. The Stalinist era from 1949 to 1956 censored any literature, such as Szabó’s work, that did not conform to socialist realism. Since her husband was also censored by the communist regime, she was forced to teach in a Calvinist girls’ school until 1959.

Her novel Az ajtó (The Door) was published in 1987 and would become one of her most famous works worldwide. The novel revolves around the relationship between two women, one a prominent Hungarian writer much like Szabó herself, and the other her cryptic housekeeper. Claire Messud writes in the New York Times that reading The Door, has completely changed her outlook on life while Cynthia Zarin, contributor to The New Yorker, calls it “a bone-shaking book.” The Door was translated into English in 1995 by Stefan Draughon and again in 2005 by Len Rix.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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