Abigél (novel)

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Abigél (Abigail) is a young adult novel by the Hungarian author Magda Szabó. It was first published in 1970 and is her most widely read novel. Abigél is an adventure story about a teenage girl who attends a Calvinist girls' school in eastern Hungary during World War II.[1]

In the Hungarian Big Read in 2005, it was voted the sixth most popular novel in Hungary.[2] It was the third most popular Hungarian novel on the list. The novel has been translated into Czech, French, German, Italian, Latvian, Polish, and Romanian. An English translation by Len Rix is set to be published in January 2020.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

The main character of the novel is Georgina "Gina" Vitay, a spoiled girl from Pest, the daughter of a general. In 1943, her father sends her away to the Matula Institute, a rural Protestant girls' boarding school, without an explanation. The closed Puritan world of Matula forces Gina, who is used to wealth and freedom, to give up many things in her life. She has to cut off the connection between herself and the outside world. The strict rules, the busy schedule, the unornamented, monotone environment are far from her previous easy life. After her classmates ostracize her and brand her as a traitor, she feels lonely and tries to escape. Her attempt fails as Mr König finds her and takes her back to the school, but it makes her father tell her why she must stay there. General Vitay is the leader of the Resistance within the military, and he does not want his enemies to find his daughter. Learning this, the girl shows maturity as she voluntarily accepts her "captivity" and reconciles with the others. The Institute is not rigorous any more, as she becomes one of the twenty sisters and accepts Matula's traditions, which until then she found childish.

The school's greatest legend has woven around the statue in the garden, which the girls name Abigél. The mysterious benefactor who helps everyone if they write Abigél a letter appears in Gina's life too. Moreover, Abigél not only solves adolescent problems but takes on serious social responsibilities, such as getting new documents for the students who have Jewish ancestry. Gina's father does not call her for months, but she calms down when her suitor from home, Feri Kuncz, finds her and wants to run away with her. The plan fails, but still the girl has to leave. The winds of war have arrived at the seemingly impregnable Matula. Helped by Mici Horn, an ex-pupil of Matula and a war widow, Gina escapes from the Institute. She gets a new identity and finds out that the teacher she hated and looked down on during the school year is actually her greatest helper and the saver of many lives.


The novel's success resulted in a TV series, produced in 1978.[4] The novel was also adapted into a musical that premiered in March 2008.


  1. ^ "Magda Szabó: Acclaimed author of 'The Door'". The Independent.
  2. ^ Zarin, Cynthia (April 29, 2016). "The Hungarian Despair of Magda Szabó's "The Door"". The New Yorker.
  3. ^ "Abigail by Magda Szabo. Translated by Len Rix". Penguin Random House.
  4. ^ "Magda Szabó". Publishing Hungary. 2016.

External links[edit]