C’est la rentrée!

Happy start of the New Year, which for me takes place in September. As friend put it, January New Year is merely a stocktaking. It’s all working from home and chasing people for overdue drinks in the balmy Brussels. Re-establishing routines and sort of planning for a life after a long while feels like wrapping self in tartan, which never fails to appear as the seasonal freshness come September.

It was a summer of sporadic reading, and even more sporadic writing. I lost the routine to read daily, and it threw me off kilter. I bought lots of books, and then couldn’t really concentrate on anything. There were some highlights, such as Tove Ditlevsen’s Copenhagen Trilogy, but also quite a bit of meh. I’m slowly working my head back on gear, and Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies was very helpful for this exercise.

Her novel was on Obama’s summer reading list, which usually is a decent curation of good reads. It’s about a Singapore-born interpreter, who relocates from UN New York Headquarters to work in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The reader can choose from several layers to focus on (language, relationships, justice, working in an international organisation), and will be a relatable read for any expat who’s ever felt rootless and wondered where home really is.

Intimacies is an elegant and easy read with no great plot-twists, but carried a sort of simmering, uneasy undertone throughout. It’s also a very realistic and sharp description about an interpreter’s job, and makes the inevitable mention and reference also to the film Interpreter (which starred Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn), also set in the UN.

Maybe something to ease the mind back to work and office life, especially all of those who work in international environments.

I read Mary Gaitskill’s This is Pleasure some time ago, and reread it this summer. It’s a short, fictional novella about complications of work-related gender relations. It is of course impossible to read it without constant mirroring with the #metoo conversation, but the story is so complicated, much like real life often is, that it cannot be categorised as some #metoo manifesto.

Inspired by This is Pleasure I looked up Gaitskill’s earlier works, and read Bad Behavior (collection of short stories) and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. Both extremely enjoyable and much recommended. Both deal with urban life and its complexities: intimacy, loneliness, sex, desire, power games – and everything is set in New York circa 1980-1990. Mind has to travel as the ban is still not lifted, thank you very much.

Photo credit: Twin Peaks, copyright ABC.

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