by Magda Szabó (Hungary)
The Door is an unsettling exploration of the relationship between two very different women. Magda is a writer, educated, married to an academic, public-spirited, with an on-again-off-again relationship to Hungary’s Communist authorities. Emerence is a peasant, illiterate, impassive, abrupt, seemingly ageless. She lives alone in a house that no one else may enter, not even her closest relatives. She is Magda’s housekeeper and she has taken control over Magda’s household, becoming indispensable to her. And Emerence, in her way, has come to depend on Magda. They share a kind of love – at least until Magda’s long-sought success as a writer leads to a devastating revelation.
“New York Review Books Classics – acting, yet again, in its capacity as the Savior of Lost Greats – has now delivered this version to an American audience. If you’ve felt that you’re reasonably familiar with the literary landscape, ‘The Door’ will prompt you to reconsider. It’s astonishing that this masterpiece should have been essentially unknown to English-language readers for so long.” – Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review
Winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and the Prix Femina Étranger.
About the author
Magda Szabó (1917–2007) was born in Debrecen, Hungary’s “Calvinist Rome.” iSzabó, whose father taught her to converse with him in Latin, German, English, and French, attended the University of Debrecen, studying Latin and Hungarian, and went on to work as a teacher throughout the German and Soviet occupations of Hungary in 1944 and 1945. In 1947, she published two volumes of poetry, Bárány (The Lamb), and Vissza az emberig (Return to Man), for which she received the Baumgartner Prize in 1949. Under Communist rule, this early critical success became a liability, and Szabó turned to writing fiction: her first novel, Freskó (Fresco), came out in 1958, followed closely by Az oz (The Fawn). In 1959 she won the József Attila Prize, after which she went on to write many more novels, verse for children, plays, short stories, and nonfiction. A member of the European Academy of Sciences and a warden of the Calvinist Theological Seminary in Debrecen, Szabó died in the town in which she was born, a book in her hand. Image credit: Bahget Iskander, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia
Len Rix is a poet, critic, translator, and former literature professor. In 2006 he was awarded the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for his translation of The Door.