LitBirthdays October 5, 2010

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October 5

Magda Szabó (born October 5, 1917) – Hungarian novelist – Az ajto / The Door (1987)

Read the Wikipedia article about Magda Szabó

Read about Magda here and here

“She made her name with her first novel Freskó (Mural) in 1958, which was an immediate success.  Szabó’s forte was her ability to bring alive characters and show conflicts within a middle-class family and in a small provincial community; she also knew how to tell a good story.

People from her childhood and early youth in Debrecen provided models for the novels which followed. In more than one book she began to explore the secrets of her closer family. Ókút (Ancient Well, 1970) is a charming string of reminiscences of Szabó’s childhood, including vignettes of her parents, a Calvinist man and a Catholic woman, “two would-be writers” whose tales prompted her to write stories of her own.

Régimódi történet (Old-Fashioned Story, 1977), possibly Szabó’s best novel, is a detailed history of her family, the Szabós and the Jablonczays, and the scene of their conflicts: Debrecen during the times of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It was claimed that this was the first Hungarian novel dealing openly with women’s sexuality. Adapted for the stage, it ran with great success in scores of Hungarian theatres.”

(from the obituary for Magda Szabo, U.K. Guardian, 28 November 2007)

Read an interview with Magda Szabo

“In the Fifties we were writing for our desk drawers. We’d hide our manuscripts in other people’s homes because you had to be prepared for house searches. At dawn we’d hear these noises and never know whether it was the milk cans clanking or the secret police coming for us.

Do you like being called a woman writer?

All my life I’ve hated women who were simply women.  Let me ask you: When did Tolstoy have a child? When did he watch his wife give birth? Because I don’t think he did watch her. But he still knew what it was like. Or could you tell me when I was King Béla? Because that’s what actors say to me: how come you’re an actor, a man and a woman, an old widow and a child, all at the same time? No one who has only been a woman writer can ever be a good writer.”

Read a review of Magda’s most famous (in translation) novel, The Door

Watch a trailer for the 2012 film based on The Door

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