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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.
What could have been a mildly interesting novel, similar to Rachel Cusk's deadpan trilogy, quickly becomes unreadable. I'm no grammatical purist; sometimes playing with grammar pays off. But every third sentence in this book is a run-on sentence, because the author seems to have no idea how to use commas, semicolons, dashes or periods. This doesn't read like a literary device. It reads like a massive editorial fiasco and the result is a discordant, tuneless drone that's impossible to parse.
This book is like a series of connected vignettes. There isn’t really any plot, just minutely drawn moments in stories that interweave over the course of two months. While some of the writing is beautiful - as other reviewers have pointed out, the use of commas where semi-colons or periods would have been more appropriate was extremely distracting. I could not get immersed in the story because I kept wondering about the editing (or lack thereof).
Some of the passages, especially at the beginning, about the role of an interpreter were fantastic. And the setting of The Hague and the International Criminal Court was very interesting. As an attorney, it bothered me that in one of the story lines, the main character interpreted for both the Court and the defense team during the trial. I kept thinking about all of the conflict of interest issues that situation would raise, and like the grammar problems, it was just another distracting detail that I found made it hard to really enjoy the story.
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.