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The Door

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  12,748 ratings  ·  1,710 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 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)
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)

Community Reviews

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4.06  · 
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 ·  12,748 ratings  ·  1,710 reviews

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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. Afte
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
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
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ungheria
Magda Szabo gioca con il lettore spargendo nella narrazione fragili elementi autobiografici: il marito della protagonista è uno scrittore proprio come era Tibor, il marito della Szabo; Szabo e suo marito subirono l’ostracismo e la messa al bando, a lei fu addirittura ritirato un premio appena consegnato, e durò per anni, dal 1949 al 1956. Poi ci fu la riabilitazione e il ritorno alla scrittura a tempo pieno. E allora una domestica entrò effettivamente in casa Szabo-Szobotka.

"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
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
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
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” he
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
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
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
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
كل باب مقفول هو حد فاصل بيننا وبين الآخرين, وقد نفتحه بحسب أولوية الحب والاهتمام
رواية للكاتبة المجرية ماجدا سابو محكية بأسلوب جميل وبسيط
علاقة بين امرأتين- كاتبة وخادمة- تأخذ كل منهما إلى عالم الأخرى
علاقة تتراوح أحيانا بين الجمود والتحفظ, وأحيانا الحب والانسجام
شخصياتهم متناقضة, كل واحدة فيهم ترى الحياة والناس بشكل مختلف
الكاتبة حياتها بين زوجها وعالمها الفكري والكتابة
والخادمة العجوز المهتمة فقط بالعمل تبعا لشروطها الصارمة
لكنها تمتلك قوة وحكمة فطرية تتوازن مع ثقافة ومعارف الكاتبة
أجادت ماجدا سابو
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1976-2000, hungarian
Al centro del libro c'è un personaggio straordinario: Emerenc, portinaia-donna di servizio-tuttofare vigorosissima, imperiosa; una forza della natura piena di convinzioni, durezze, regole di vita autoimposte e profondamente segnata da un passato mai esibito; custode della porta alla sua personale “città proibita” dove non lascia entrare nessuno.
Non avessi conosciuto la mia nonna materna forse penserei che la narratrice (al tempo stesso antagonista, amata e figlia) la ritrae calcando un po' trop
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!
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
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
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
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
Emilio Berra
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: letto
Dietro la porta
"Nella ricerca della verità sii pronto a imbatterti nell'inatteso, poiché essa è difficile da trovare, e, una volta trovata, stupefacente." (Eraclito)

"La porta" è un libro originale e bellissimo, forse il capolavoro di Magda Szabò, considerata la più grande scrittrice ungherese del '900.
Vi si rappresenta lo straordinario rapporto, profondo e sfuggente, fra una celebre scrittrice di mezz'età e un'anziana donna, enigmatica e particolarissima, nel contesto dell'Ungheria già comunist
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 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
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
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.
Estoy todavía asimilando el poso que me ha dejado el libro. La primera mitad me gustaba, una lectura lenta, pausada, intimista, una historia de la amistad que se profesan dos mujeres muy distintas. Lo estaba disfrutando. Lo que no esperaba es que en la segunda mitad me calara más el personaje de Emerenc hasta el punto de quedarme con una sensación de tristeza y vacío al acabar la historia.
No sé realmente cuánto de autobiográfico tiene la novela, pero si realmente existió Emerenc o alguien
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
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
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ripercorrendo il cammino di lettura di questo libro, vedo con precisione il punto di svolta, il momento in cui per me da un bel libro si è trasformato in un libro che rimarrà nel mio cuore. E’ stato (chi l’ha già letto capirà) il giorno del Venerdì Santo: da quel momento anche la mia “porta”, che prima era socchiusa, si è spalancata all’improvviso di fronte a Emerenc, personaggio che per autorevolezza, maestosità e potenza rappresenta una figura quasi leggendaria, emblema della generosità e dell ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-hungria, favorites, 5e
"Emerence não acreditava no paraíso, Emerence acreditava no instante."

Emerence...uma personagem que ficará para sempre na minha memória.
A romance para a minha lista de favoritos.

"...não ame ninguém mortalmente, porque se perde. Se não é logo, há-de ser mais tarde. O melhor é nunca amar ninguém, porque, assim, ninguém é feito em pedaços..."

Que perversidade é esta que me faz gostar de um livro que me deixa numa tristeza profunda?
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.
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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
“Creativity requires a state of grace. So many things are required for it to succeed.” 336 likes
“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.” 37 likes
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