The Door is a singular story of an unusual relationship between a female author and her housekeeper. Emerence, the housekeeper, is quite a character, a sort of a superhuman when she attaches herself to someone or some task. She is an uneducated woman, but her life experience makes her wiser than the educated in some ways. Magda, the author, is naive in many ways. Though highly educated and earned a name for her work, she displays a lot of naivety when it comes to worldly affairs. Szabo throws these two contrasting women into each other’s lives and creates a bond of such intensity and dependency which raises one while destroying the other.
From the beginning of the story, there is an underlying uncanny tone that makes the reader apprehensive of what would be the outcome of this strange relationship between Emerence and Magda. Szabo builds up the tension between the characters while at the same time building in the reader’s mind that some disaster is at hand and that soon the tight bond between the two will somehow snap with dire consequences for one or both. Szabo’s style of writing of building her story while fully commanding the reader’s attention was amazing. This wasn’t a pleasant story. Some may disagree, but it was for me. Yet, I was fully conscious of the intense and somewhat disturbing relationship between the two women. My mind never wandered. It was always on attention and was quite alert to the story’s subtle nuances. Szabo writes without quite writing.
Love and trust are the most fragile of human emotions. Once lost, both are hard to be gained. And most of the time a broken heart and a broken trust prove destructive in a person. Then again love is a complex emotion. One’s actions in the name of love may not be what the other expects, even if it’s proved to have been done in good faith. This is what happens between Magda and Emerence. They are two women who are worlds apart in character. Yet, their love for one another is sincere and strong. At the same time, however, their different character traits and station in life make their outlook on this complex emotion quite different. What Emerence wishes to be done in the name of love is not something that Magda can do. It’s not within her person. And that proves to be destructive to both women, especially to Emerence. Love can either makes a person or breaks a person. There is no middle ground. And love proves to be the breaking of Emerence.
The portrayal of the complex psychologies of these two women, and their intense and exceptional relationship is so well done by Szabo that even though one might think that they are surreal, one cannot completely deny their existence. Her ability to create a mixture of a real and surreal atmosphere and to immerse the reader in the complex human world she creates is quite praiseworthy. And her subtle portrayal of the complexities of human emotions through this widely read work of hers is evidence that Magda Szabo is no ordinary author.