Each country has its well-known and loved literary characters whose essence is deeply connected to the identity of a nation or region. This exhibition is about those characters, introducing the fictional world, authors and cultural surrounding of smaller European states. Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg are represented with their literary characters. Learn about the project
Emerenc Szeredás from film The door – based on the novel, Helen Mirren in the leading role – directed by Academy Award Winner István Szabó in 2012.
Emerenc Szeredás is the protagonist of the novel Ajtó (The Door), which is about her special, twenty-year-long relationship with the narrator, a female writer who hires her to clean her house. Emerence is no ordinary housekeeper. Although everyone in the neighbourhood knows and respects her, no one knows anything about her private life or has ever crossed her threshold.
She possesses an ancient archaic integrity, is fearless and independent. She works hard and becomes indispensable to the household. A friendship develops between Emerenc and the writer and despite their ongoing stormy scenes they slowly learn to trust and love each other. We learn that Emerenc has been through the hells of human experience, working as a servant from 13, enduring hunger and deprivation, surviving the Nazi invasion, the Stalinist era and the communist government. Due to her tough experiences she is capable of essential functioning only. Anything not linked to physical labour and the struggle for survival seems trite and pointless to her. She is introvert but also generous in her relationships. When the door of the title, the front door of Emerenc's home opens only once and only for the writer, actually the gate to her inner life opens and she becomes vulnerable with all her secrets out in the open. As she ages the writer takes the responsibility for her and when she gets ill and locks herself up in the flat the writer lets other people take her to hospital. She cannot survive the writer’s betrayal.
After WW II literary life in Hungary recovered with extarordinary rapidity. By 1946 there were a number of periodicals Response (1946-49), New Moon (1946-48) Forum (1946-50); Hungarians (1945-49) up and running. Magda Szabó together with others like Ágnes Nemes Nagy, János Pilinszky, Géza Ottlik, Iván Mándy, and Miklós Mészöly belonged to the loosely-knit circle of authors identified with New Moon. They all had their roots in European culture, had a strong feel for Europe despite the horrors of the Nazi and Soviet occupations in 1944-45. Their first volumes came out in 1946-47 and they were in internal exile during the period of Stalinism when a lot of literary careers were broken, writers left the country for good or went to prison, the writers of the New Moon kept writing for their desk-drawers. After 1956 a more tolerant government policy in literature took place in line with the slogan created by János Kádár, the first secretary of the Communist Party: “Those who are not against us are with us”. Liberalisation of literature started with the “Age of the Three Ts” the letters standig for support, tolerance and prohibition in Hungarian. Magda Szabó and others come back as “new faces” and literature though lost its prominent function could follow a more organic development in which all the above mentioned authors took part, got translated and gained international fame.
Text by Gabriella GulyásBack to top