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INTIMACIES by Katie Kitamura Kirkus Star


by Katie Kitamura

Pub Date: July 20th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-399-57616-4
Publisher: Riverhead

A watchful, reticent woman sees peril and tries not to vanish.

“Every certainty can give way without notice,” thinks the narrator of Kitamura’s stunning novel, a statement both true and freighted. It's a delight to accompany the narrator’s astute observational intelligence through these pages, as it was in A Separation (2017), which also unspooled completely in the mind of its speaker. Both slim books are pared down, without chapter headings or quotation marks. A murder unsettles A Separation; a mugging destabilizes this new book. Its narrator is a temporary translator at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where an unidentified head of state is on trial for atrocities in the months before the Brexit vote. The accused specifically requests the narrator to translate for him in a claustrophobic meeting with his defense team: “cross-border raid, mass grave, armed youth.” She hears and doesn’t hear the words amid her focus, just as she sees and doesn’t completely register events in her everyday life. “It is surprisingly easy to forget what you have witnessed,” she thinks, “the horrifying image or the voice speaking the unspeakable, in order to exist in the world we must and we do forget, we live in a state of I know but I do not know.” This is the crux of Kitamura’s preoccupation. She threads it brilliantly through the intimacies her character is trying to navigate: with new colleagues, women friends, and her beau, who goes away; with the work and with the nature of The Hague itself. Landscape holds a key, and on the final pages, the narrator intuits it might release her from some of the dread suffocating her. The novel packs a controlled but considerable wallop, all the more pleasurable for its nuance.

This psychological tone poem is a barbed and splendid meditation on peril.