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I am not surprised so many people love this book. It is lyrical and fabricated in a way that is both apparent yet also just out of reach. We are all interpreters trying to rationale words when often they mean something else. We are also victims of those interpretations when our own beliefs give meaning when there is none or permit us to become manipulated. A glorious haunting read: ethereal and deep.
Words and deeds are not always what you interpret them to be. This novel not only shows how language can make - or break- dreams, it is a consciousness-raising novel which will pull the rug from under your feet. The title is misleading, until you get to the last page.
the entire time i read this book, i was immediately inside the narrative, entirely removed from my own world. and yet now when i try to tell you about the book, i cannot explain what it was about this book that impacted me. if you are looking for a book with a strong plot, this is not it. and yet there is an arc to the storyline, sure. but it's secondary to how this book makes you feel. most of the time i felt quietly suspended and yet entirely engaged. how is that even possible? such is the power of this book, at least for me. i chose this book because president obama suggested it and i've come to learn over the years that he chooses strong books. this book is definitely one of them and i was dismayed to find the author is relatively new and there is only one other book of hers on the market. and now that i've written this review i see that i've left you with no idea as to what this book is "about", but rather i am hopefully leaving you with the impression of a wonderful reading experience. a strong, quiet, intelligent narrative.
“Intimacies” Is a deadpan noirish novel set in The Hague, where an unnamed female translator fluent in French and English has a one-year contract at the international court. The tone of the book is set early. Here, for example, is the translator/narrator visiting a friend for the first time:
“As I walked from the tram stop to her apartment, broken glass crunched underfoot. Jana’s building, a modest structure lined with balconies, was wedged between a public housing block and a new condominium of steel and glass.”
While Jana and her guest are having dinner, they hear some noise and some confusion. Eventually we learn what it’s about, and what we learn sets off sort of a subplot. But there are more moments here than plot elements.
As the narrator plods on (and I can’t think of a more attractive word) she meets several men, personally and professionally, and describes her reactions to each. One of the men is a former African dictator, now on trial, and this is the centerpiece around which all resolves.
All in all, the author leaves you with a succession of scenes, impressions if you like (can an Impressionist work be in monochrome?) and everything seems hushed, at a distance, through a mist. You’ll have questions.
Notes and Asides: The author, in order to show the narrator’s haste, or the rapidity of her thoughts perhaps, often ties sentences together with a comma rather than a period. This is obviously deliberate, and to cast blame on the editor is absurd.
This is the second book I have read written by Kitamura. I also loved the first one, “A Separation.” Some negative reviews here almost blocked me from buying this one, but I’m glad I pushed them aside. Looking back, I can see almost no validity to the criticisms. Her writing is quite sharp and perceptive, often lyrical. The main character struggles with difficult issues in ways that prove illuminating. Kitamura is masterful in her story telling with much that is hinted rather than bluntly stated. I look forward to her next novel.
The plot centers on transition, personal and professional. The writing is elegant. It flows without excess words to drag it down. It’s a story of a woman with no place to call home with two powerful male influences who are emotionally complicated. By coming to understand herself more than she understands them, she brings clarity and resolution to her two lives.
"Intimacies”, by Katie Kitmura, is the story of an unnamed first-person narrator who has come to The Hague to be an interpreter for the International Criminal Court, which hears the dark cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. (Imagine translating atrocities all day!)
In the six months since she arrived in the Netherlands, the interpreter has acquired a Dutch boyfriend, Adriaan, who has children and is separated from his wife. And she has acquired a friend, Jana, who is a bit enigmatic. Are the “intimacies” that the interpreter experiences with these characters, truly what they seem? A first-person narration assumes some intimacy with the reader…but are we “interpreting” her correctly?
At one point the narrator opines “…none of us are able to really see the world we are living in…we live in a state of I know but I do not know.” Is the interpreter correctly interpreting her own situation?
This is an atmospheric, psychological, often disquieting novel. The interpreter seems to be straightforwardly narrating what is happening in her life, but we suspect she is not a reliable narrator, we suspect that something is going on of which she herself (and maybe the reader as well) is not yet aware.
The Hague, is not a place I know much about. Nor did I know much about the International Courts. I did some internet searching to see photos and descriptions of the city and the Courts, which I highly recommend.