Magda Szabo

Magda Szabo (1917-2007)

Szabó was one of the most prominent Hungarian novelists of her time; she also wrote poetry, plays, essays, memoirs, short stories, children's literature, and scholarly studies. She graduated from the University of Debrecen after studying languages and worked for several years as a teacher of Latin and Hungarian. The success of her first publications after World War II soon led to trouble with the censors and the literary establishment, but eventually she won some of the most prestigious prizes in Hungary. (When the narrator is called to travel to Greece, it is no surprise to her knowledgeable reader). Her husband, Tibor Szobotka, was a translator and died in 1982. Szabó died in her home town in 2007.

Hungarians will tell you that their poetry is the best in the world - it's a highly refined tradition, and on the other hand in a language unlike all those that surround it (though it has common features with Turkic languages, and with Finno-Ugraic languages like Finnish or Estonian, it is surrounded by Indo-European languages), so not many non-Hungarians know the language and are in a position to judge.

Our version is translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix.

Questions for Reading:

Other books by Szabó:

The Door (Az ajtó) was first published in 1987. The film version directed by István Szabó (2012) and starring Helen Mirren (!) as the servant-not-servant Emerence got rather mixed reviews - consider comparing the film and novel for a pepr. (Apparently István Szabó is no relation of Magda Szabó.) The novel's topic, the relationship of educated upper-class employers with a lower-class servant, recalls a great earlier Hungarian novel, Anna Édes (1926), by Deszö Kosztolányi, which might also make an interesting comparison.