From the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of All That Man Is, a novel about twelve people, mostly strangers, and the surprising ripple effect each one has on the life of the next as they cross paths while in transit around the world.
... the prose flows easily ... When [characters embrace the turbulence in their lives], it is unexpectedly moving ... The tone is melancholy, but the prose is wry ... This is a minor work, not half the length of ATMI, yet in some ways Szalay’s task is harder. He must encapsulate essential personality within mere fragments of lives rather than whole chapters; half the main characters are women (as opposed to none); there is less recourse to satire. In the end, these moments of turbulence cannot represent all that a man (or woman) is. However, Szalay’s gift for inhabiting entirely different lives is as remarkable and spooky as ever.
Putting a girdle round the Earth in just 130-odd pages, it’s inevitably a much leaner work, written in a brisk, authoritative past tense rather than a layered and shifting present ... There’s not an ounce of fat to be found, as decades of emotion hang in the spaces between the short, declarative sentences ... As the stories operate through plot ironies and the sudden illumination of character, this radical simplicity of style means that they offer up most of their pleasures on first reading ... What Szalay does so well is the minute-by-minute apprehension of the close-up world, what he calls 'the tightly packed fabric of reality', combined here with an impressively global vision ... It’s part of Szalay’s genius that he can encompass the distance between the [inspirational and brutal irony].
Turbulence is written in a similar idiom and has a similar structure to All That Man Is, but it pushes the minimalism further. The result is a more obviously elegant book, in a way that’s artful rather than arty, with little appreciable loss of narrative drive ... Each story runs to only nine or so pages, and one of the impressive things about them is the speed and deftness with which Szalay convinces the reader that he knows what it’s like to be an Indian guest worker in Qatar, an upmarket journalist in São Paulo, or a prosperous Senegalese businessman ... Page by page, though, Szalay’s mixture of directness and withholding looks increasingly masterly.