I’ve been trying to read a novel all summer. It is not that it is very long, quite the opposite. The door, by Hungarian writer Magda Szabó, is a short novel. It was recommended to me by my friend Elsa Veiga a long time ago but it took me even longer to buy and read it. I don’t know, there are books that resist us in all aspects, as if from the beginning they announced their complexity, their greatness. Books that do not allow us, for example, to read them in the subway or lie down with them in the municipal swimming pool, because they require such a degree of privacy and disposition that it seems ridiculous to share them with noises or squeezes. Of that kind of books is The door. He (re) wants you all to himself. It requires all your attention, it demands more than challenging in these times of multiple stimuli and giddy beasts. In these times, slot machines that demand our attention like coins to continue spinning and feeding, there are still novels that trap you in the density of their narration, as if you fell into the network of lines spaced and there a world opened up that makes you forget everything the rest. It happens to me, for example, with Pierre Michon. Or Marie-Hélène Lafon, who is actually Michon’s disciple. And it happened to me with The door.
When it is crossed, it will leave you trapped not only by the plot and by the way of narrating of Szabó but, particularly, by the strength of the character of Emerenc, one of the protagonists, not to mention the absolute protagonist, a specific whirlpool from which you will not emerge unscathed. Because The door it’s one of those portable books. Even if you are not reading it, it stays with you, impregnating you in its nets like flies fall on the adhesive tapes that hang from some town houses in summer. The adhesive strip is Emerenc, the flies are, on the one hand, the other antagonist character, the writer transcript of Szabó herself, and we, her reading victims. Trapped by that conflict between two models of women, the one who cares and the one who is cared for.
The synopsis, hateful blurbs to avoid if one truly believes in the mystery of fiction and its magical powers to generate intrigue, refers to the plot as if the character of the writer was indeed Szabó herself and Emerenc’s the portrait of a domestic worker with which the author lived together. The data is irrelevant because everything that happens here has the force of literature, free from the disquisitions between verisimilitude, autobiographical pacts and pariah corroborations. We do not know whether or not Marga Szabó had an assistant named Emerenc or whose story resembled her. Who cares? What difference does it make? On The door that reverential mystery of literature is produced that ends all the useless dilemmas between reality and fiction. It just happens.
Given my vital circumstances, in order to read and write, I myself have needed the close work of two Emerencs. In my case, they are people I love very much: my mother and my mother-in-law. Both are professionals in reproductive work. They dedicate a large part of their time to the pure care of the matter on which the rest of the works and days rest. Invisible tasks carried out by care workers (blessed Noemí López Trujillo dixit). Two somebody that have taught me the invisible and indispensable to be able to think. Clean and folded clothes. Sheets and towels “changed”, supplies that remain, purchase planning, balanced and varied food punctually on the plate, return to collect, think, decide, stretch, shake, put, take out, sweep. As read in a passage from the novel: “According to the political vision of my assistant, the world was divided into two classes of people: those who sweep and those who do not, the latter are capable of the worst, regardless of what the slogans are or what flag is flying on the day of the party national“.
What does not sweep mean? Do not empty the closets, or change the seasonal clothes, in short, do not prepare or deal with the necessary matter for the intangible things of thought to happen, those that are later said in the columns and in the gatherings. Emerenc makes the house perfect, and that means that it disappears, with all its demands, for the writer to write. I would like Emerenc to enter the house of all those intellectuals who make fun of what they call hype ideological of “care”, to read them the primer, to make them see the absurdity of relegating the work of all care workers to the shade and ridicule. Emerenc is anything but mellifluous and prudish, as these detractors seem to reproach. Who wouldn’t want to have Emerenc among their ranks, behind their barricade? I keep reading while you go to any bookstore to acquire and prepare to devour The door. While I also wait for my own Emerenc to get me out of this limbo. Impeccable, atheist, “rolled up”, loyal, powerful, Emerenc charges against intellectuals but above all against the “indoctrinators.” Those who do not sweep, who let their feet sweep as if nothing happened, as if that fact was not relevant. Do not be like them, barred, or at least, if swept away, do not pretend. Don’t think that what you do is more important than that.