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Book excerpt: "Intimacies" by Katie Kitamura

In "Intimacies" (Riverhead) a new novel by Katie Kitamura, the acclaimed author of "A Separation," a woman is assigned to be the interpreter for a politician on trial for war crimes at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, forcing her into the mind of a man who terrifies her.

Read an excerpt below. 


It is never easy to move to a new country, but in truth I was happy to be away from New York. That city had become disorienting to me, after my father's death and my mother's sudden retreat to Singapore. For the first time, I understood how much my parents had anchored me to this place none of us were from. It was my father's long illness that had kept me there, and with its unhappy resolution I was suddenly free to go. I applied for the position of staff interpreter at the Court on impulse, but once I had accepted the job and moved to The Hague, I realized that I had no intention of returning to New York, I no longer knew how to be at home there.

I arrived in The Hague with a one-year contract at the Court and very little else. In those early days when the city was a stranger to me, I rode the tram without purpose and walked for hours at a time, so that I would sometimes become lost and need to consult the map on my phone. The Hague bore a family resemblance to the European cities in which I had spent long stretches of my life, and perhaps for this reason I was surprised by how easily and frequently I lost my bearings. In those moments, when the familiarity of the streets gave way to confusion, I would wonder if I could be more than a visitor here.

Still, as I traversed the roads and neighborhoods, I had a renewed sense of possibility. I had lived with my slow- moving grief for so long that I had ceased to notice it, or recognize how it blunted my feeling. But now it began to lift. A space opened up. As the days passed I felt that I had been right to leave New York, although I didn't know if I'd been right to come to The Hague. I saw the details of the landscape in high and sometimes startling relief—because the place was not yet worn down by acquaintance or distorted by memory, and because I had begun looking for something, although I didn't know exactly what.

From "Intimacies" by Katie Kitamura. Copyright © 2021 by Katie Kitamura. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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