David Szalay’s figurative language

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of images from David Szalay….

The writer David Szalay (pictured above) was born in Montreal to a Canadian mother and a Hungarian father. (His surname is pronounced SOL-loy.) Although his family moved to Beirut when he was young, they were forced to leave Lebanon and move to London after the onset of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. Szalay studied at Oxford University. He now lives in Budapest, with his wife and two children.

He is the author of five works of fiction including All That Man Is, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2016. Turbulence which I read recently and very much enjoyed, is a series of 12 linked short stories following different people on flights around the world. It explores the theme of globalization of family and friendship in the 21st century. (Szalay has written a number of radio dramas for the BBC. Turbulence, in fact, began as a series of 15-minute programs for BBC Radio 4.)

Although the writing is colder and a little plainer than writing I typically enjoy, I found that Szalay has a deft eye and ear for figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • She stirred airline Bloody Mary with a little plastic baton. The engines purred in slow rhythmic waves. She felt the vodka work on her. The tightly packed fabric of the world seemed to loosen.
  • She turned to the window and found only her own face in the dark plastic now, deeply shadowed lie a landscape at sundown.
  • There was the sound of the engines — an unvarying sound like a large waterfall somewhere nearby — that muffled all other sounds so that it seemed as if she had stuffing in her ears.
  • Bougainvillea blossoms floated on the water like scraps of pink tissue paper.
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