The blade of this departure…

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 metaphor from Joseph Kertes.

I remember many departures in my life. My two best friends leaving for Europe after high school graduation, while I was off to university. A boyfriend leaving me. Visiting a close friend in Quebec City, where she’d moved, and then my having to head back home after a week. I’ll never forget what the cab driver said to me (in French) as I headed for the airport: “To say goodbye is to die a little.” So true.

I discovered similar language about leaving in the charming novel The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes. The story of a Hungarian family escaping Budapest at the end of 1956 is both amusing and tragic. The author himself escaped Hungary at that time and came to Canada where he ultimately founded the creative writing program at Humber College, in Ontario.

A fine writer, Kertes has a way of elevating a metaphor that might otherwise be considered banal. Here’s what he has to say about leavings:

Attila and I went over to our cousins to say goodbye, and for the first time I was stabbed by the blade of this departure, was wounded more deeply than by our initial escape from our home. 

I like the way he pairs the verb “stabbed” with the noun “blade” to make this sentence come to life. Other writers might have contented themselves with describing the “stab” of a departure. The specificity of what Kertes does takes his image to another level.

I think I’ll look for his first novel, Winter Tulips, which won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 1989.

Scroll to Top