06. 23. 2017. 11:07

I've so many secrets left... - Magda Szabó was born 100 years ago

Magda Szabó was born 5th October 1917. To celebrate her centenary, the Petőfi Literary Museum is organizing an exhibition.

The starting point for the exhibition is, in the words of the author herself, "What happened to, and around, me and what I made from that raw material can't really be untangled. When I die, I'll take all my secrets with me, and there won't be a literary critic alive who'll be able to get to the bottom of who I was then, which of my personalities, or what was actually true in this or that scene. The mirror I turned on the world will shatter on my death; its shards, of course, could be put back together and forced into some kind of frame, but they'll never show what I was or what I created. (Scones for Cerberus, p. 168).

Visitors will get an insight into these secrets, and the mirror, as symbol, will feature in several different ways. The exhibition presents her defining childhood influences, including the fairytale world that her literarily-gifted parents created (which was the inspiration for Is-lands and Lala the Fairy), and the arms of Debrecen with its lamb motif, which became a cornerstone of her oeuvre.

As well as her parents and her home town, the exhibition also looks at the world of the author's alma mater, the Dóczi high school, its teachers, and the way they made it into her novel Abigail. The exhibit brings to life the spirit of Abigail, and visitors can bring her their wishes both in person and electronically.


Magda Szabó with her husband, Tibor Szobotka


Since Szabó builds up her own personal myth around her ancestors in her works, an important element of the exhibition is a family tree, which will introduce visitors not only to the author's relatives (including photos), but will also show which relative became what character in her works. The exhibit also includes Szabó's made-up sister, or alter-ego if you like, Cecilia Bogdan, putting on display the various documents that paved the way for her entry into the oeuvre.

As well as her ancestors, this personal mythology also included her husband and her housekeeper, and the exhibition looks at Tibor Szobotka and Emerence in The Door in light of this.

But the exhibition deals not only with the autobiographically-inspired works, but also such iconic novels as Fresco, The Fawn, Katalin Street, and The Night of the Pig-Killing; looking at how they came about, telling the story with the aid of Szabó's personal artefacts. Visitors can also discover Szabó's handwriting, signature, favourite scent and favourite magazine.

There are lots of photographs of Szabó's face, of her many faces, and these are used as illustrations throughout, as well as assembled into a large panel, accompanied by self-reflective confessions from the author's personal writings, such as her diary and correspondence.

„The Greeks and the Romans believed that the dead go to the underworld. Those who inspired my life's work, the ones I loved, the ones I love, are all there now. If you feel you can trust me, reader, then come, follow me. It won't be a frightening journey, no, but an investigation of the shades who entered a writer's oeuvre, and how. There's nothing to be afraid of or be sad about. The truth, the background to a life - a life's work - can never be sad."

The exchibition is open:

20 June 2017 – 4 March 2018.