Magda Szabo: January Reading Group Selection

the-door_grandeThe Book Beat reading group selection for January, 2015 is The Door by Magda Szabo. We’ve decided to try out Bean & Leaf in Royal Oak as our next meeting place. Bean and Leaf is located at 106 S Main St, Royal Oak, just one block south of 11 mile rd., on Main street. There is parking in the back. I was told they will reserve the two tables in the back for us. They have a great menu and it seems like a nice comfortable space. Thank you for your support — Happy New Year! Books are discounted 15% at Book Beat. All are welcome!

Appearing on several year-end lists in 2015, The Door is, at it’s core, the story of two women and their relationship. However, in it’s telling, the reader is taken on a tour of both Hungarian history and the complexities of intimacy.

“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, a realization that raises once again the question of what other gems we’re missing out on. The dismaying discussion of how little translated work is available in the United States must wait for another venue; suffice it to say that I’ve been haunted by this novel. Szabo’s lines and images come to my mind unexpectedly, and with them powerful emotions. It has altered the way I understand my own life.”  –

“Dogs and cats; intellectuals and domestics; gods and godlessness; fantasy and reality; privilege and strife; the younger and the older generations; what lies exposed and what lies hidden behind locked doors—Szabó’s The Door covers all of these elements, and then some. The economy of her prose is remarkable, and the ease with which she positions Magda and Emerence in opposition to one another speaks not only to intimacy among women, but also reflects on how knowledge can be shared (or suppressed) across generational, political, and social boundaries. The Door continues to speak to readers as vocally as it did when it was first published in 1987—not just Hungarian readers, but all readers who are bound by these social, cultural, and personal fetters, and who wish to bridge the inevitable gaps that one encounters in the acts of writing histories and stories. And, as this is all of us, we would do well to attend to Szabó’s wise vision, while, at the same time, hoping that more of her work will soon bless English-speaking readers.”  – K. Thomas Kahn, Words Without Borders

“No brief summary can do justice to the intelligence and moral complexity of this novel. 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. It is unusual, original, and utterly compelling.” The Scotsman

olvas.jpg.500x500_q85Magda Szabo  (1917-2007) was one of the giants of contemporary Hungarian literature. Heaped with honors, in her native land and abroad, she was Hungary’s most translated writer, with a following in 42 countries. Her gift was to explore universal human themes and contemporary political realities through finely observed portraits of private life. Szabó was born into an old Protestant family in Debrecen, the “Calvinist Rome” of eastern Hungary, whose distinctive intellectual and moral traditions shaped her mind and underpinned her art. She began her literary career not as a novelist but as a poet. Having read Latin and Hungarian at the University of Debrecen, she spent the years of the Second World War teaching at a girls’ boarding school in the city, and then in the country town of Hódmezõvásárhely. By 1945 she was a civil servant in the Ministry of Religion and Public Education. Elected to the European Academy of Sciences (1985-90) and acclaimed for her international work in the ecumenical movement, Szabó was a supreme example of the embattled writer. Her devotion to her craft was passionate and lifelong. Fittingly, she died at four in the afternoon, shortly after her 90th birthday, with a book in her hand.


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