A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK OF 2021
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN FICTION
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE 2021 READS
AN INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER
A BEST BOOK OF 2021 FROM Washington Post, Vogue, Time, Oprah Daily, New York Times
“Intimacies is a haunting, precise, and morally astute novel that reads like a psychological thriller…. Katie Kitamura is a wonder.” —Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward and Eat the Document
“One of the best novels I’ve read in 2021.” – Dwight Garner, The New York Times
A novel from the author of A Separation, an electrifying story about a woman caught between many truths.
An interpreter has come to The Hague to escape New York and work at the International Court. A woman of many languages and identities, she is looking for a place to finally call home.
She's drawn into simmering personal dramas: her lover, Adriaan, is separated from his wife but still entangled in his marriage. Her friend Jana witnesses a seemingly random act of violence, a crime the interpreter becomes increasingly obsessed with as she befriends the victim's sister. And she's pulled into an explosive political controversy when she’s asked to interpret for a former president accused of war crimes.
A woman of quiet passion, she confronts power, love, and violence, both in her personal intimacies and in her work at the Court. She is soon pushed to the precipice, where betrayal and heartbreak threaten to overwhelm her, forcing her to decide what she wants from her life.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Katie Kitamura’s soulful novel explores how meaningful connections can take shape within and outside of a shared language. When the book’s unnamed narrator moves to The Hague to work as an interpreter for the International Court of Justice, she immediately senses a contradiction between the “strenuously civilized city” and the barbaric crimes that the Court adjudicates daily. As her job leads her to empathize with a particularly repugnant client––a deposed president accused of genocide–– Kitamura’s heroine becomes increasingly alienated from her own instincts and suspicious of everyone in her life, from a new friend to a mysterious lover. With spare but observant prose, Kitamura turns Intimacies into a most unusual thriller about our failure to ever fully understand one another. It’s a gorgeous and intense read that builds suspense around a character’s heady journey through loneliness and displacement.
Kitamura's plodding latest (after A Separation) follows a group of jet-setting young professionals in The Hague, where a translator finds herself enmeshed in the private lives of her colleagues. There's something vaguely unseemly about the unnamed translator's married suitor, Adriaan, as well as other characters, including her boss in Language Services, the preppy curator she house-sits for, and a book dealer who is mugged during a recent wave of violence. But it's hard to discern what anybody is actually up to. Meanwhile, in the courts, the translator is entrusted with the cases of a recently extradited jihadist and a well-heeled former president of a West African country on trial for war crimes, with whom she must match wits. There are, unfortunately, plenty of unused opportunities for deeper character development; Adriaan in particular is built up as a nemesis, but he does little more than preen, while even less can be said of the various other dilettantes and sexual rivals. Subtle to a fault, this adds up to very little outside of a plethora of dinner scenes and undeveloped subplots, while the translator simply drifts through a Henry James style chronicle of life abroad. Kitamura is a talented writer, but this one disappoints.
Even more stunning that her previous novels
This is a novel about being unsure and uneasy. Our main character, a woman of skill and talent, is searching for her place and is undertaking the difficult task of creating a life in a world where the meanings of things aren’t so easy to translate. This novel will resonate with all those who have lived that experience. Kitamura’s insightful writing doesn’t merely weave those themes into the novel, but builds entire work upon them. There are few writers with her talent.
Gripping, in a quiet way.
I read this book in a few hours, gripped by silent tensions. lots of big questions to think about, and some unresolved aspects that feel entirely natural and true. The blunt, reportorial style was a bit odd at first, but then I saw it as a perfect fit for the narrator’s character, a reflection of her interpreter role.
The summary of this book looked great, but did nor deliver- at all. Severely lacked any story and character development. Writing was ostentatious and nothing really connected. So bad.