Magda Szabó: The Door

“But a door can hint at so much more.” — Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

Having come fresh from a streak of world literature for Women in Translation Month, which included Tomb of Sand, I have become more attuned to the implication of doors being more than architectural features. Doors as metaphors for boundaries.

But in contrast to Geetanjali Shree’s doors where, ideally, anyone came and went; Magda Szabó’s door was meant to remain shut.

The physical door of the latter was not only a boundary but the framework of a person’s dignity.

Szabó’s Iza’s Ballad turned out to be the most exquisitely written work from my WiTMonth selection, so I wasted no time in taking a peek into this door.

Curiously, Iza’s Ballad and The Door both have characters hired as household help who do not work for the money. One is a minor character in Iza’s Ballad, but in The Door it is the baffling, the imposing, elderly Emerence, one of the two central figures in the story. Adding to the intrigue is the younger and other main character, a writer, the author’s namesake.

Two decades of love-hate relationship yield misunderstandings and reconciliations, but also critiques on each other’s lives, on art, and on their clashing beliefs. At some point, the writer eventually achieves “the prize” and receives a prestigious recognition for her work, but not without the question of what it cost.

Reading Szabó is like a careful and deliberate peeling of an onion. The core is shrouded in well-executed layers where even the revelations continue to maintain a mystery that lead toward a confounding finality. But she is yet another testament to my hunch that 20th century writers remain unsurpassed. Even with a tinge of absurdism, there is that deep exploration into the dark of interior characterization, a delving in the psychological, spiritual, and philosophical condition of its characters, if only to pose the argument of what it is that really matters in life. 

10 thoughts on “Magda Szabó: The Door”

      1. Yeh this calendar is going soooooo slow! But to be fair, I visited my amazing elderly friend who has 75 years worth of books in her house. Every corner of her house is covered in books – she is my idol! Lol. Anyway she lent me some books she recommends to get me through these tough times (lol!)
        Tom Reiss – The Orientalist
        Lawrence Durrell – Bitter Lemons
        Antonia White – Frost In May
        Victoria Finlay – Colour

        Thank god for friends who love to read!!
        Happy Sunday to you M! X

        Liked by 1 person

      2. How lovely, Anna! She sounds like an amazing woman! I’m happy you have her while you wait out this unimaginable period of zero book-buying. 😂

        If I remember correctly, your trip to Cambodia is scheduled around this time? I wish you a fun and safe trip! ❤ Looking forward to your photos and stories!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh! At least I got the “7th” right. Haha 🤪

        By the way, I only had time to look up your friend’s recommendations today! Thank you for sharing the list with me! How exciting to learn about the Orientalist connection to Ali & Nino! I have not read both but I remember seeing Ali & Nino on your blog’s book page. I’ll try to secure copies of the two (and of the other recos, of course haha).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes I am so excited to read the Orientalist, the connection to Ali & Nino is exciting! I absolutely love Ali & Nino, when my friend lent it to me I loved it so much I bought my own copy!

        Btw, I started Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons first because of your post about his quartet! I had never heard of him so when I saw the book on my friends shelf I just had to grab it. So far he does not disappoint! He writes beautifully! X

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, absolutely! The Mennonites in Uzbekistan were mentioned in “Carpet Ride to Khiva”. Would love to have a deeper insight into the topic through this book. Thanks for sharing!

      By the way, an online bookseller of secondhand books posted a copy of “Frost in May” yesterday and I was able to get it for approx 5AUD!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well I haven’t read Frost in May yet so I hope its good! Lol. If my friend recommended it surely will be, I don’t think I’ve had a bad recommendation from her! $5 is a good deal! Yay!

        Liked by 1 person

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