Katie Kitamura Translates the Untranslatable

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By Catherine Lacey

By Katie Kitamura

Early in Katie Kitamura’s fourth novel, “Intimacies,” the unnamed narrator recalls watching three street cleaners in The Hague “carefully extracting cigarette butts from between the cracks of the cobbled road, one by one by one … despite the fact that there were several well-placed public ashtrays on that stretch of street alone.” The sight of these immigrant men laboring with their “elephantine vacuum” exemplifies how “the docile surface of the city concealed a more complex and contradictory nature,” and how the “veneer of civility was constantly giving way, in places it was barely there at all.”

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