Kitamura pays attention to the dark side of cityscapes, the things we’d rather not learn. âThere are prisons and much worse all around us,â she writes, âin New York there was a black site above a busy food court, the windows were darkening and the rooms were dark. soundproofed so that screams never reached those seated below. “
All novels are, in a sense, about language, but “Intimacy” emphasizes how meaning is created and how it is compromised. Kitamura takes note of what she calls the “great chasms under words”, chasms that “could open without warning.”
Competence and balance matter to an interpreter. If you seem pissed off, so will the person you’re playing for. One can easily, writes Kitamura, “threaten the whole personality of the witness.” The author talks about the endurance test of a long day of translation. You can get so lost in the work that you don’t fully realize what you are saying, the horrible crimes you could describe.
This novel is in a way “about” translation. (Nabokov said you wanted to learn a language just enough to âcatch the whisper in the back.â) But the real warmth here, as in Kitamura’s previous novel, âA Separationâ (2017), is in the interest. author’s constant for the intricacies of human power dynamics.
In his job, there is a winner and a loser in almost every social interaction. Its antennae are precisely tuned in to magnetism, verbal dexterity, physical beauty and, conversely, their lack.
Regarding the West African president on trial, for example, the narrator senses how the energy in the courtroom is sucked into “the black hole of his personality.” Few novelists write so astringently about how we misinterpret people and are forced to refresh, like a web browser, our assumptions about them.
Kitamura’s narrator is a bit of a figure. In love, it’s child’s play, to the point where she fears being “an accomplice in my own erasure”. It hovers a millimeter above life. She has a concierge level of disengagement.