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The Door

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  17,498 ratings  ·  2,367 reviews
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 h ...more
Hardcover, 262 pages
Published October 20th 2005 by Harvill Press (first published 1987)
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Christopher Liking a character, as in the character appeals to my sensibilities, is not a big priority for me these days. I don't think it is shallow to identify …moreLiking a character, as in the character appeals to my sensibilities, is not a big priority for me these days. I don't think it is shallow to identify with characters but I always found that I don't gain new perspectives or widen my experiences hanging out with just people I like. They often just confirm my biases or affirm my actions. It's when I have difficulty with a person that I become challenged to see with new eyes. And in that respect, I really loved Emerence. I agree that she was a difficult personality but she is unforgettable. Try to forget her. I would hazard a guess you forget major characters, even major events in these major characters stories, but you will remember Emerence and her stories. (less)
Christopher I find this book to be not only good, but great. It is a wonderful piece of literature that is a bit demanding but very rewarding. It is one of those …moreI find this book to be not only good, but great. It is a wonderful piece of literature that is a bit demanding but very rewarding. It is one of those books that would find its way into a university level literature course. (less)

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How on earth could the telling of the life and character of an aged Hungarian cleaning lady feel so eerily uncanny?

Because, do not be mistaken, this is not a mystery book. This is a novel about the relationship between two women: an illiterate servant and her considerably younger employer, a writer. The latter narrates the story, which is set in Hungary around the 1960s-80s.

So, how could this be such a memorable story? Magda Szabo (1917-2007) proves in The Door to be an astounding writer. Af
Glenn Russell

Magda Szabó's The Door - an intense story, a haunting story, a fiercely compelling story of the relationship between two women living in a Hungarian village: Magda, a married writer and Emerence, a mysterious housekeeper possessing qualities of epic proportions. To my eye the above portrait by Hungarian born artist Csaba Markus captures what Emerence must have looked like as a younger woman.

Critical responses to The Door have been dramatic in the extreme: Ali Smith: "a story of such savagery th
The Door by Magda Szabo is a fictionalized autobiography of the author's relationship with her octogenarian housekeeper named Emerence Szerebas. A goodreads friend from Hungary recommended this novel to me because she sees that I enjoy reading women authors from around the globe. Szabo wrote many prize winning novels during the course of her career, including both this book and the one depicted in it. During the course of this award winning novel, the readers experience post life in post Holocau ...more
"I know now, what I didn't then, that affection can't always be expressed in calm, orderly, articulate ways; and that one cannot prescribe the form it should take for anyone else."

What an unusual sort of book and a very peculiar relationship examined therein between Magda, the narrator of The Door, and her housekeeper, Emerence. This novel really grabs you from the start – right away the reader knows that there is some mystery surrounding these two disparate women. Magda is a writer, privileged
The main character of this story, the woman whose front door provides the title, is called Emerence.
Every time her name was mentioned, I automatically put a 'g' in it and read it as 'Emergence' which turned out to be quite fitting because the aspect of the writing that struck me most was the pacing: the way the story emerged little by little. Author Magda Szabó keeps a tight control over the narrative, allowing details to take on clarity very gradually as when a piece of photographic paper lyin
I still don't know how she fitted so much living into one life.

Hope and despair go hand in hand whenever I try to form a rather fragmentary sketch of a far-off Hungarian landscape. It is one place which has become an essential part of my past as well as prospective literary sojourns and whenever I decide to visit there, to meet another storyteller and to hear one more hypnotic tale, there’s always a throbbing anticipation to receive a treasured souvenir made out of unfamiliar lives but exceptio
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
This book has a timbre, a tone that is haunting.  I will not be forgetting the character of Emerence anytime soon.  An older woman, she acts as housekeeper for a lady writer and the writer's husband.  Odd-turned and enigmatic, harsh and opinionated, Emerence is a workhorse.  The 20 year relationship between the two woman is fascinating, charming, and sad.  The story of Emerence's life slowly comes together, pieced together like an intricate mosaic.  There are myriad meanings behind the title.    ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found the atmosphere of this novel to be full of darkness and despair. The friendship between two woman, one an up and coming author, the other an older woman revered on the street. Emerence is a character I will not soon forget, a woman who has seen much, sheltered unbiasedly different people throughout the war, a hardworking woman of the utmost honor and pride.

The title has many different meanings in this book, the literal door and other doors, internal and psychological. This book raised s
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Two complicated women clash in Communist-era Hungary in Magda Szabó’s unsettling character study, The Door .

The narrator is a successful author, a cultured intellectual whose “family goes back to the Árpáds”. This novel is her extended confession; in the opening pages she admits: “I killed Emerence”.

Emerence is brusque, sturdy, freakishly strong, her hair always bescarfed. The indefatigable peasant worker, she seems straight out of a Soviet-era propaganda poster. Her long hard life, tumultuo
In modern postwar Hungary, an old woman who is now a famous author recalls a nightmare: herself as a young woman. The novel begins after she has passed through a “politically frozen” time and started to be able to write again and to be publicly lauded for it. She and her husband move up a step on the social ladder. They hire an old woman, Emerence, as a servant. Or is it the other way round? “I don’t wash just anyone’s dirty linen,” Emerence says, coming to see their flat in her “ceremonial”
Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hsk

Johannes Brahms can make autumn leaves dance in one of nature’s most graceful circle. The chill in the air was about to birth the season’s very first snowflake. The clatter of rusty shovels being removed equated to the asinine banters of old women gossiping on the porch. After the death of its final leaf, the trees lay barren like a country that had abruptly lost its people. There were no birds to be seen, yet I heard them chirp a summer song. The fervent barking of a mongrel was followed by a p
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub-reads

Magda Szabo really makes the reader work hard with this book and I for one found the characters and the story unconvincing

The Door is a novel by Hungarian writer Magda Szabo. The novel documents two decades of life in Budapest after the Communist takeover in 1948, The novel tells the story of a developing and complicated relationship between a young Hungarian Writer and her housekeeper and is partly autobiographical.

Having visited Hungary only last year I was up to date on the history and was g
An uncomfortable look at the barriers that we put up to protect ourselves, and the price that is paid for that self protection. Does it ever really work?

Magda Szabo wrote this in the original Hungarian in 1987, but it is now translated and available in English. It tells the story of the relationship between two women: Magda, a writer, living with her husband, and Emerence, an older peasant woman who is hired as her housekeeper. Both women come from vastly different backgrounds. Emerence is an al
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a mesmerizing and quite dark little book. This is about a Hungarian writer and her husband who have an older servant woman who basically takes over their household and their life. The book is mostly about the relationship between two women, and it’s a tense situation throughout but I really did like it!
Diane Barnes
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It took me 10 days to read this book, which is unusual for me as I can read fairly quickly, especially when I really love a book. But this one demanded to be read slowly, not only to savor the language, but to get inside the mind and heart of Emerence, which proved impossible in the end.
Emerence was a servant, working for an author and her husband. When she turned the tables on them at the interview, claiming that she was in fact interviewing them ("I don't do just anyone's dirty laundry, you kn
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a remarkable book.

This novel was published when the Hungarian author, Magda Szabo, was 70 years old. That gives me hope! If I can be that creative hen/if I am 70...

A reviewer from The Scotsman had this to say in praising the book: “…I picked it up without expectation. I read it with gathering intensity, and a swelling admiration. I finished it, and straightaway started to read it again…”

Why would somebody start to re-read the novel? But I too went back and read the very first chapter. A
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Sue

At some point during my reading of this, I was reminded of The God of Small Things in that I felt as if this too can be read on two levels and that if I knew more of the history of the country of origin (here it is Hungary), I would’ve gotten even more out of the novel. Because I know basically nothing of the latter (I googled some), and even though this can be read as a character(s)-relationship study, I feel as if something essential has eluded my grasp. Yes, we are told in perfect pacing w
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Romanians and Hungarians have a long history of not liking each other. I'm no xenophobe and I have a few friends in Budapest, yet I was sometimes wondering: what does Hungary have to offer in terms of art, music and literature? They could say the same about Romanians, too; what the heck, we are questioning our place in art history ourselves! Well, after reading this novel, I've come to think that Hungarians do have their hidden gems, just the same as we do. Magda Szabó's novel was my first foray ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this novel a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t had time to review it until now. Turns out that was a good thing. Two weeks ago, I would have given The Door three stars and moved on. It was slow. It felt a little pointless. I didn’t like the characters.

But, because I wanted to review it, I kept the book in the front of my mind and over time a deeper truth began to emerge for me.

The Door is slow because its subject matter is difficult and slippery. It felt pointless because I didn’t wor
What a brilliant, infuriating, deeply perplexing book.  The Door centers on the relationship between two very different women - the protagonist who is a writer, and her housekeeper, an older woman named Emerence.  A clash of values between the two provides the main conflict for this tense and elusive story: Ali Smith writes in her brief introduction, "Their relationship transforms into one full of the barbed hostilities of love."

Emerence - cold, strong, and fiercely, irrationally independent - i
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1987
It’s a beautiful story of a co-dependent, toxic relationship between a writer and her hired help where a weird power struggle never seems to end. Emerence, the said help, seems to be more in charge than her supposed employers. She is despotic, mysterious and strong-willed. Her employer, the writer and the narrator of this (maybe semi-autobiographical) book seems emotionally volatile which makes her susceptible to Emerence’s moods and tantrums. Emerence is not a demure servant, she comes and goes ...more
Viv JM
I found The Door to be an unexpectedly moving and profound story. It tells the story of the relationship between an eminent writer and her somewhat cranky cleaning woman. For much of the book, not much actually happens, but the last third just tore me apart emotionally. It raises ethical issues in relation to friendship, love, death and dignity that have no easy resolution. I have rated this five stars, not so much on how much I enjoyed the book so much as how much it got under my skin. I will b ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this work of Hungarian minimalism, the narrator is Magda Szabó, same name, same occupation, same childless marriage. Her, but not exactly her. She is a witness.

She hires Emerence to be a housekeeper of sorts. Well, that's not exactly true. Emerence gives them a probationary period, then allows herself to be hired. Emerence is a tireless worker, but decidedly sets her own rules. She suffers no fools and abjures education, religion, pretense. The Magda of the novel is an award-winning writer, a
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it

The Door is ranked among NY Times Book Review's "Ten Best Books of 2015". Regarded as Madga Szabó’s best work, it is a semi-autographical account of the relationship between a female novelist and her housekeeper. It is an insightful exploration of the power of human attachment. I read it feverishly in a space of a few days but the emotional devastation I felt lingered many days after.

Madga Szabó (1917-2007) was a prominent 20th century Hungarian novelist. Her works were censored during the Stal
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Story that really shocked me ....... what a wonderful writing that of Szabo , describing it in depth the most ' deep soul of' man .....
I had a grandmother basically similar to Emerenc , and I am still wondering , after 18 years since her death , why , because of whom lived , his heart had become in the eyes of others like marble .....
I have to get over this reading !! one of the best i have read in these years!!!

Storia che mi ha veramente scosso....... ma che meravigliosa scrittura quella dell
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange little book translated from Hungarian about the unlikely postwar friendship of Magda( our narrator) a writer married to an academic, and a very secretive illiterate village woman named Remenence , who though hired as a household servant, quickly has them wondering who is really in charge. Reading like a mythic tale full of symbolism , this book chosen by NYT as one of 2015's 10 Best Books (though it was originally written in 1987) is not one of those warm fuzzy books about frie ...more
If Emerence lived in America today, her door will come in handy. The door is figurative and literal. The door is the stronghold a refugee builds from others because she has seen or experienced human cruelty firsthand. The door is compartmentalization, a coping mechanism. The door is the face of her safe, happy world she's created away from the harsh realities. The door, well, let's just say is a door that everydamnbody should not be allowed to enter.

Sometimes the strangest things happen during m
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hungary
Magda Szabó lauded as Hungary's foremost female writer was renowned in Western Europe for her powerful prose and memorable heroines. She won France's Prix Femina Étranger for The Door in 2003; it is considered her most notable achievement. Written in 1987, the Door tells the story of the strange and complicated relationship between two strong women of opposing backgrounds and personalities: Magda-the intellectual,the writer; and Emerence-her mysterious housekeeper, the relentless worker.
Stephen P
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Stephen by: Proustitute
Magda Szabo evokes an entry into the wilderness of self inflicted avoidance and therefore exile of the self. The book is peopled with complex characters eschewing the ease of cliche and stereotype; a successful writer growing more successful at her typewriter for hours at a time; her university professor husband now disabled from lung problems. They need a housekeeper.

An eighty something year old woman applies for the job and arrives for the interview. She interviews them more than they her. Th
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful and morally complex novel that details a longtime friendship between two very different women. It asks questions that made me long for my college days in ethics class. I'm so glad this was made available to English readers. This is one I highly recommend and hope to have a chance to read again. ...more
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Magda Szabó was a Hungarian writer, arguably Hungary's foremost female novelist. She also wrote dramas, essays, studies, memories and poetry.

Born in Debrecen, Szabó graduated at the University of Debrecen as a teacher of Latin and of Hungarian. She started working as a teacher in a Calvinist all-girl school in Debrecen and Hódmezővásárhely. Between 1945 and 1949 she was working in the Ministry of

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