Intimacies: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Intimacies is the first -person account of a woman with a most fascinating job: translator at an international court that handles war crimes. Ironically, the narrator holds her reader at arms length throughout, resulting in a chic sense of mystery. This novel is a lot like the city in which it takes place: "strenuously civilized"  on the surface, intense unease lurking just below.

— Morgan






A BEST BOOK OF 2021 FROM Washington Post, Vogue, Time, Oprah Daily, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Atlantic, Kirkus and Entertainment Weekly

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.

About the Author

Katie Kitamura's most recent novel, A Separation, was a finalist for the Premio Gregor von Rezzori and a New York Times Notable Book. It was named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications and translated into sixteen languages, and is being adapted for film. Her two previous novels, Gone to the Forest and The Longshot, were both finalists for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award. A recipient of fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and Santa Maddalena Foundation, Katie has written for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Granta, BOMB Magazine, Triple Canopy, and Frieze. She teaches in the creative writing program at New York University.

Praise For…

Praise for Intimacies

“[C]ooly written and casts a spell… One of Kitamura’s gifts… is to inject every scene with a pinprick of dread…. One of the best novels I’ve read in 2021… A taut, moody novel that moves purposefully between worlds.” Dwight Garner, New York Times

“[I]ntense, unsettling… Intimacies is very much a story that seems to be something familiar but soon morphs into something disorientingly strange…. [W]ith her Jamesian attention to the slightest movement of bodies and words, Kitamura keeps Intimacies rooted to the ordinary domestic experiences of her narrator, her petty jealousies, her passing suspicions. The effect is a kind of emotional intensity that’s gripping because it feels increasingly unsustainable. Who could endure that raw-nerve sensitivity to the power of language to love, to deceive, to promise, to kill? Kitamura pulls us through a rising panic of hyper-awareness until the story’s fever finally breaks with a note of hope and relief. But that can’t quell the novel’s reverberations, which expose something incomprehensible about the moral dimensions of modern life." Ron Charles, Washington Post

"Intimacies is both sleekly gorgeous — those sentences — and psychologically unnerving. She’s an absolutely brilliant writer." Julie Otsuka, New York Times Book Review

"A master of cool disquiet... Kitamura writes with forceful, direct prose that makes for a bracing read and leaves the reader mesmerized." Lauren Mechling, Vogue

"[A] thriller of a novel.... In exploring how one’s proximity to power and violence can hold endless repercussions, Kitamura interrogates how our intimacies can change the course of our lives.” —Time

"Kitamura’s prose elegantly breaks grammatical convention… this style mirrors the book’s concern with the bleeding lines between intimacies — especially between the sincere and the coercive — while Kitamura’s immense talent smooths the seams…. A novel like this one offers the reader much to work with, raising a chorus of harmonic questions rather than squealing a single answer. Contemporary American novels too often deliver pre-solved moral quandaries and obvious enemies in service to our cultural craving for ethical perfection — the correct word, the right behavior, the sole and righteous position on myriad complex issues. Kitamura works outside of this trendy literality by knowing, as the best writers do, that a story’s apparent subject does not determine its conceptual limits; plot summary would do this book no justice…. Kitamura’s work also contains a keen understanding of human behavior, one that reaches far beyond the pages of this brief and arresting book; she travels to places that ordinary writers cannot go." —Catherine Lacey, The New York Times Book Review

"Calling all Rachel Cuskheads and W.G. Sebald stans! Kitamura is a novelist of enchanting imagination and minimalist prose style.... The novel’s plot twists are of the subtle, jaw-tightening variety rather than the dramatic, stomach-knotting sort, but it’s still fair to call it a ‘psychological thriller.’ Intimacies is for those who like their addictive novels to sneak up behind them rather than slap them in the face.” Molly Young, Vulture

"[A] gorgeous, destabilizing meditation on the power differentials built into language and the gradual distortions of our emotional allegiances.” Raven Leilani, Vulture

"An amazing book, beautiful and captivating’" Elif Shafak
"In spare and elegant prose, Kitamura limns  her unnamed protagonist's search for home and gifts us a powerful, beautiful book." Chika Unigwe

“I love how Katie Kitamura can channel a mind.” Ruth Ozeki, Observer UK, Best Books of the Year)

 “With Intimacies, Kitamura gives the question of how to voice someone else’s suffering a political urgency of the highest order.” Jennifer Wilson, The New Republic

“The way I tore through this book like it was a sexy beach read instead of a piercing meditation on the way language moderates our perception of violence! . . . About once every two pages, Kitamura writes a phrase that feels like a key turning inside your body. And if all of this doesn’t sound immobilize-you-on-your-couch-turning-pages-level good, just know that Barack Obama named it one of his favorite books of the year." Jenny Singer, Glamour

“Powerful, masterful…. One might call Kitamura one of the most talented thriller writers who doesn’t write thrillers, for her novels are tinged with menace and threat and dark alleys that seem primed for acts of violence. And yet, really, the artistry  . . . .  lies in the delicate ways in which characters continue on, persevere slightly better or slightly worse, and survive.” Chris Bollen, Interview Magazine

“Just under 250 pages but packs a powerful punch. Beautifully written and mysterious.” —Real Simple

“[T]he book vibrates with tension. . . Kitamura’s prose is responsible for this effect — she writes like a concert violinist, with clarity and control and a sustained, uneasy high pitch.” Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times

“Kitamura blends the personal and political in spare, elegant, inimitable prose. A standout novel, like nothing I’ve read before." Kathryn Ma, San Francisco Chronicle

“Katie Kitamura’s fourth novel spins a taut web of dread from the start. . . In cool, spare prose, Kitamura asks the book’s animating query: How should you go about your little life in a world where horrible things are happening?” Stephanie Hayes, The Atlantic

"Fans of sparse millennial tales: Run, don't walk.” —Entertainment Weekly

“In her unforgettable 2017 A Separation, Kitamura took her protagonist to the edge of an island in the Mediterranean; in her new and equally unforgettable novel, she places an interpreter in the middle of The Hague. This woman is also embroiled in many dramas, personal and professional, forcing her to choose a path and an identity.” Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

“Kitamura’s voice is chilly but also brave as she strikes a pose between mind and heart. Her searing new novel, Intimacies is, in key ways, a companion piece to A Separation, revisiting themes of duplicity and questionable morality; but it also delves into politics and sexual tension more explicitly, a tale that burns like dry ice . . . In crystalline prose, Kitamura probes the labyrinths of language and the riddles of our humanity . . . Intimacies is a judicious, cerebral novel, but Kitamura seasons it with dashes of glamor. There’s a hint of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy and Tom Buchanan, “careless people [who] smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money.” . . . This slim, graceful novel punches above its weight as Kitamura explores tragedy on an epic scale, reckoning with the ways we deceive each other and ourselves.” Hamilton Cain, Oprah Daily

“The author’s choice to leave her stories suspended in a gelatinous stew of human behavior is exactly what keeps her fiction so sticky; we can’t shake it off. Intimacies makes you wonder just how much is lost in the most basic translation — from one mind to another.” Jessica Ferri, Los Angeles Times

Intimacies feels like a thriller, though I suppose it really isn’t one; the author just has a remarkable way of bringing tension to every encounter in this brief, sly novel about language and identity . . . Kitamura plumbs different kinds of intimacy — physical, verbal, emotional — in prose that creates its own unique rhythms, as if it itself were translated: She strings sentences together with commas, making rivers of words, and eschews quotation marks so that statements blur into reflections. This results in a book that feels almost painfully intimate; it’s as if we’ve slipped inside the head of this quiet woman, navigating an unwelcoming city, feeling its chill, trying to find home." Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times

“[F]ascinating and mysterious.” NPR

“Katie Kitamura dazzles us again with Intimacies. Her style is so perfectly suited to my taste that everything she writes impresses. Her ability to impart vivacious detail with sparse and direct prose is a testament to her talent, and the moments that she is able to create between characters and places are memorable and beautiful. This book has stuck with me for months now, and I think of it often in the small moments of intimacy I find in my life." —Buzzfeed

“A strange and mesmerizing tale about language, understanding, and the role of strangers in our most intimate moments.” —Bookriot

“[Intimacies asks questions] with both a subtlety and an urgency that makes Kitamura’s voice so distinct within contemporary fiction. I read most of Intimacies in the early hours of the morning, when the shapes and outline of your own home can feel, temporarily, like they belong to someone else. In those hours, the novel’s voice was the one I knew best, and I would forget myself and my family sleeping nearby and become lost in the novel’s suspense, and its beauty.” Ashley Nelson Levy, BOMB

“[A] novel that carries enormous moral weight, attending to themes of alienation, violence, and love, with every page written in the most taut, gripping prose. It will haunt your dreams long after you’ve turned down the last page.” Tahmima Anam, E! Online

“Spare, exacting prose . . . with powerful questions about morality, responsibility, and how we tell stories.” – Shondaland

“There’s a restrained intensity to Katie Kitamura’s prose, one that made her last novel, the superb divorce-meets-mystery drama A Separation, feel like you were reading it in the eye of a tornado, the tight, muted sentences suggesting an overwhelming tempest just beyond them. It’s that willingness to keep readers at an intriguing distance before revealing the messy emotions driving it all that should serve her well in the new book, Intimacies, about a woman trying to escape her past.” —A.V. Club

“Though it has all the ingredients for a story of global intrigue…what Katie Kitamura's new novel, Intimacies, really does is offer intrigue of a more, well, intimate sort. This is the kind of book that quickens the pulse not because of logic-defying plot twists, but rather because of how surgically precise it is in revealing how our emotional realities take on epic dimensions in our own minds, and often threaten our stability in the precise ways that things of global import rarely do….psychologically disconcerting — like all the very best thrillers.” —Refinery29

Intimacies is a haunting, precise, and morally astute novel that reads like a psychological thriller. It expertly and concisely delves into the paradoxes of language—how language can obscure our own complicity, and how language can enable us to escape our own delusions. Katie Kitamura is a wonder; her work is striking, stylish, and fully realized.” —Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others and Eat the Document

“Gripping and elegant. No one’s work simmers with emotional complexity like Katie Kitamura’s.” —Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk

"A novel about the ruthlessness of power, the check of virtue, and the purportedly neutral bureaucracy meant to mediate between them. Katie Kitamura is among the most brilliant and profound writers at work today; she reminds me how high the moral stakes of fiction can be.” —Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You

“Katie Kitamura writes about being an outsider like no other author. Quiet moments are charged with tension and power. In short, the book is remarkable - beautifully written and intelligent.” —Avni Doshi, author of Burnt Sugar

Intimacies is a perfect novel—taut and seductive. Kitamura has made the existential thriller all her own, and she effortlessly negotiates the personal and the geopolitical with a complex moral nuance. Simply stunning.” —Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life and Filthy Animals

"Saturated with enigmatic longing, Intimacies peels back the layers of sympathy, antipathy, and morality that both connect and divide us from others, unearthing something precious beneath. Katie Kitamura is a revelatory interpreter of the human heart, in all its brilliance and obscurity." —Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

“Katie Kitamura’s voice — spare, electric, evocative — could take me anywhere. Especially into this landscape of global wanderers, uprooted women, fragmented souls. Intimacies is a singular pleasure — a dangerous, seductive, dagger of a novel.” —Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia and New People

“Katie Kitamura’s beautifully wrought novel is tense and suspenseful, a mystery about human choices. From its protagonist’s work as an interpreter at the Hague, from crimes against humanity, to friendship and a love affair, the interpreter can’t escape questions of judgment and justice. She balances tenuously on an ethical scale, while interpretation itself is brilliantly employed as the faulty method that subsumes all communication. Like a work by Graham Greene, INTIMACIES kept me in its tight grip.” —Lynne Tillman, author of Men and Apparitions

“Like her protagonist, Kitamura... is a master of precisely evocative language. In her work and in her isolation, the interpreter recognizes how familiarity can obscure intimacy, while its lack can yet lead to discomfiting proximity. The novel takes places so deeply within her that it's truly personlike, at once forthright and mysterious, a piercing and propulsive meditation on closeness of many sorts.” —Booklist (STARRED review)

“A watchful, reticent woman sees peril and tries not to vanish… It's a delight to accompany the narrator’s astute observational intelligence through these pages… 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…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…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.” —Kirkus (STARRED review)

Praise for A Separation

“Kitamura is a writer with a visionary, visual imagination… In A Separation, [she] has made consciousness her territory. The book is all mind, and an observant, taut, astringent mind it is.” —The New Yorker

“A slow burn of a novel that gathers its great force and intensity through careful observation and a refusal to accept old, shopworn narratives of love and loss.” —Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

“The burnt landscape, the disappearance of a man, the brilliantly cold, precise, and yet threatening, churning tone of the narrator—make A Separation an absolutely mesmerizing work of art.” —Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers

“Fascinating, artful and atmospheric.” —Paula McLain, Parade magazine

“Unsettling… Kitamura traces the narrator’s thoughts in sentences striking for their control and lucidity, their calm surface belied by the instability lurking beneath… The more the narrator tells us, the less we trust her. And the less we trust her, the more this hypnotic novel compels us to confront the limits of what we, too, can know.” —O, the Oprah Magazine

“A novel so seamless, that follows its path with such consequence, that even minor deviations seem loaded with meaning. Wonderful.” —Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle

“Accomplished… a coolly unsettling work.” —New York Times Book Review

“Kitamura’s prose gallops, combining Elena Ferrante-style intricacies with the tensions of a top-notch whodunit.” —Elle

“Kitamura weaves a novel of quiet power, mostly due to a narrative voice that is so subtly commanding—so effortlessly self-aware and perceptive, teeming with dry yet empathetic humor—that it’s a challenge not to follow her journey in a single sitting.” —Harper's Bazaar

“Katie Kitamura breathes new life into the theme of marital breakdown.” —The New Republic
Product Details
ISBN: 9780399576164
ISBN-10: 0399576169
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: July 20th, 2021
Pages: 240
Language: English