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Those who sweep the streets

Posted January. 20, 2021 08:19,   

Updated January. 20, 2021 08:19


Some people make artists look insignificant by questioning the meaning of art. “The Door” by Hungarian writer Magda Szabó is a novel that reflects the meaning of art by introducing such a character.

The narrator is a famous female writer, who struggles to cope with domestic chores due to her busy career. So she hires a housekeeper who lives alone next door. After getting some help with household chores, the writer dedicates herself to writing, wins numerous awards, and enjoys fame. The housekeeper, however, is an unbearably stubborn person who has her own way. In her world, there are two kinds of people: those who sweep and those who do not, in other words, those who have people with power includes pastors, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and professors, not to mention politicians. Movie directors and writers also have power, theoretically speaking. Is she furious at the reality that people with no power are easily ignored? No. It was a conclusion reached after contemplating the history of Hungary and living a troubled life.

Still, the housekeeper’s thoughts seem to be too sarcastic and antisocial. But the story is different if those thoughts are coming from someone who had to sweep the streets from an early age. The housekeeper not only cleans the writer’s house but also the streets lined with 11 buildings. She removes snow from the streets all night so that people can go to church the next morning and cleans their houses and does their laundry while they are at church. She lived a life like that for decades even though there was no need for that anymore. This is why her words have power. But unlike her words, she has such a warm heart. She gives shelter to a wounded German soldier regardless of ideological difference, saves a Jewish child during a war, and looks after poor neighbors and street cats.

It is not philosophers, theorists, or intellectuals, but those who sweep the streets like her, who make us look back on the meaning of art. As this novel shows, no matter how splendid art is, it becomes insignificant in front of their lives. Art is sometimes a record of that insignificance.