Untimacy

Fuccboi isn’t the first book to strike a thematic connection in terms of how it’s adapted into an audiobook.

2021’s Intimacies tells the story of a translator tasked with representing a war criminal in court. In this setting, an interpreter’s job is to drain their voice of all subjective individuality; they are quite literally impersonal mouthpieces for the abhorrent. They must repress any traces of their own feelings and emotional interjections about the atrocities discussed. You might loathe the loathsome person you’re speaking for, and even if they’re the heinous enactors themselves, verbal disassociation is still the ticket.

How might this dissonance affect how a translator moves through their lives? Could this forcibly adopted sociopathy seep into their everyday existence and worldview and processing outside the court? For example, this quote: “She was nodding enthusiastically but her smile was stiff and hallow.” The book seems interested in the intimate, but maybe backwards relationship between the truth and its outward presentation.

Which relates to the idea of how clean and safe the main character’s city appears, and yet, there’s clearly a discomforting violence simmering beneath. Or, how she feels the presence of her lover’s ex-wife in his apartment, even though she herself is nowhere to be found. Katie Kitamura’s book charts the intimate relationships we hold to things that may not be readily apparent on the surface, but still exist underneath and all around us. How do we navigate this indirect, topsy turvy intimacy?

While reading, I was struck by the blandness of the writing. I cued up the audiobook, only to be met with a similar tonelessness (a lack of tone is still a tonal choice). Which is when it occurred to me:

There’s thematic resonance in dampening the personality of the vehicle through which we access the action. Usually, there’s an intimate relationship between what we say and how we say it. But Intimacies is about the inverse phenomenon; what happens when the two are detached? How are we thrown asunder? How does the book’s impersonal tone change the way we engage with this personal tome?

The relationship between the books and their audiobooks for both Fuccboi and Intimacies thrust the listener into this exact situation; how does the arrangement inform our perception and conception of the books in their totality?

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