Katie Kitamura translates the untranslatable

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Reading, too, can be a deeply interpretative act, and a novel like this offers the reader a lot of work, raising a chorus of harmonic questions rather than shouting out a single answer. Contemporary American novels too often deliver pre-resolved moral dilemmas and obvious enemies in the service of our cultural thirst for ethical perfection – the right word, the right behavior, the unique and right position on a myriad of complex issues.

Kitamura works outside this fashionable literality knowing, as the best writers do, that the apparent subject of a story does not determine its conceptual boundaries; The plot summary wouldn’t do this book justice. Although the words “emotional labor”, “feminism” and “colonialism” never appear, he is still deeply engaged in these great social issues, while making subtle comments on everything from art to jealousy. through gentrification.

Yet an ungenerous reader might notice the male object of affection and assume that the story is about a lonely woman’s search for love, simply because the narrator is slightly directionless and is waiting for his Dutchman to come home. House. It is true that “Intimacy”, like the previous and equally captivating “A Separation” by Kitamura, scrutinizes the knowledge of those we love, on whom we depend and sleep alongside. Yet Kitamura studies these relationships as a lens for larger points, not as an end in itself. The path that a life traces through the world, this book seems to say, has its greatest importance in the effect it has on others.

“The performance can be deeply disorienting,” reflects the narrator, “you can get so caught up in the details of the act, trying to maintain the utmost fidelity to the words spoken first by the subject and then by yourself. , that you do not necessarily understand the meaning of the sentences themselves: you literally do not know what you are saying. The language loses its meaning.

This disorientation may sound familiar: in a time when so much intimacy has been forced or forced by quarantine, this novel is happy. The breath itself, that intimate air, united our worlds in death and fear. Even world events – a pandemic, a protest, a war – first occur in the delicate space between people.

The sinister man judged “is mean and conceited, but he understands the depths of human behavior. Places ordinary people don’t go. This gives him a lot of power, even when confined in a cell. Kitamura’s work also contains a keen understanding of human behavior, which goes far beyond the pages of this brief and gripping book; she travels to places that ordinary writers cannot visit.


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