Bookshelf — The Elegance and Simplicity of “Intimacies”

Tim Porter
3 min readJan 8, 2022

Katie Kitamura’s novel is to be savored for is clarity and humanity

Anonymity is antithetical to intimacy, is it not? To label something as anonymous is to proclaim not only mystery, but also distance, possible menace, and perhaps even tawdriness. An anonymous letter, an anonymous phon call, anonymous sex. Worrisome at best.

“Intimacies” reverses this dynamic and employs the anonymity of its protagonist — an interpreter in the international court in The Hague — to draw us closer. With few given clues to define her — no name, no age, no specific heritage, no resume — we must lean in to catch her whispers and decipher them as accurately as we can, just as she does as a neutral, but visible intermediary between the accused, the witnesses and the court. It is an intimate task, and a demanding one. Most of us prefer the obvious to that which must be gleaned.

Little in life is more complex, and therefore more baffling, than human emotion and motivation. What people do or don’t do is readily seen. Why they make that choice — whether it is to have an affair, to move to another country, or, more significantly, to massacre the innocent to empower the culpable — is a question often unanswered despite the best efforts of judges, journalists, shrinks, and novelists.