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family, relationships, identity, gender, gender roles, sexuality, intersectionality, race and racism
In Intimately, the reader travels between Paris, Ljubljana and New York and follows three narrative threads: the love story between Slovenian Janina and Fadul, a former journalist from Chad who had fled to Europe because of his work that was critical of the elites; the affair between Amina, a young woman, and much older Tibor who must deal with the death of their toddler daughter Izabela; and the story of New York artist Deana who enters the intimate world of her models through photography. From time to time, another voice, the voice of a mysterious character named Tay, crops up and gradually reveals the interconnections of these stories about identity, foreignness, and the possibility of choice or lack thereof. At the same time, Intimately holds up a mirror and is a response to both institutionalised as well as everyday racism.
Gabriela Babnik is a poetic, elegant writer with a special knack for seamlessly interconnecting the narrative strands of a novel and an acute sensitivity for human relationships and the human condition. And while the novel has a very wide scope in terms of both geography – Ljubljana-Paris-New York – and themes it deals with – identity, gender, gender roles, racism – it stays true to its title as it intimately deals with relationships both within and outside families.
Shortlisted for the Kresnik Award for best novel of the year 2016
[Babnik's] latest novel concerns itself with intersections between sexuality, gender and race. Her work distinguishes itself by its intellectual courage, nuanced and finely-wrought stylistic approaches, intricate composition, acute political awareness and – perhaps surprisingly – humour.
The names of the characters making up these couples – Fadul and Janina, Amina and Tibor, Aaron and Deana – are exotic, immediately indicating the theme ubiquitous in all Babnik’s work, i.e. the question of foreignness, of the individual’s anxiety in a world which they clearly don’t belong to and which directly or indirectly lets them know that it considers them unnecessary.
In her most extensive work to date, the author returns to her specific and distinct style that combines exceedingly metaphoric writing with direct eroticism. However, motifs typical of magic realism don’t turn up as often as we’re used to from her previous novels, and the story is thus much more grounded and focused on the brutal here and now.