American novelist Katie Kitamura´s «A Separation» is a languid and cold drama about the shadows of power struggle in a conventional, upper class marriage. The setting is on a seemingly idyllic Greek island. But the environment is disturbing, the island is ravaged by forest fire and lies largely in ashes. Apart stands from this grisly landscape stands a luxorious hotel where the couple are staying. The symbol of a facade amid general decay is soon discovered in this marriage as well.
We find out that the unnamed female narrator, actually has followed her husband to this holiday island to find him after he went missing. He claimed a divorce before he went there to write a book on mourning. It emerges that she has long felt trampled upon, by his continous adultery, dominating behaviour and insensitivity. Her own reactions to this marital unhappiness could only be described as cold and reserved. She has had a pattern of obeyeing and putting up with her husband´s reckless behaviour. Yet she has not forgotten anything, and has never accepted her subjugated role. Inside she has kept alive a cold flame of reproach, bitterness and minute observering of her husband´s faults.
Now she has come after him. After declaring his intention of divorce her husband gets her to promise that the separation be kept a secret. In line with their past facade keeping, she complies. However, things get even more gloomy as her husband is suddenly found dead in the countryside. Now the separation has been consumed. Yet even after this she continues to keep the separation a secret. Even to her own new lover, a kind and sympathetic man.
Though the author is born in the US, there is something Asian or Japanese about the submissiveness and retiring behaviour of the main character. This American upper class couple seem somehow displaced, and even more so on the devestated Greek island. The narration is to a large extent the internal dialogue of the narrator as she looks back on what has happened leading up to her marriage´s unexpected end. She is riddled in self doubt and observes people rather than inertacting with them. Even after her husband´s death anxious worry is more prevalent than sorrow. The tone of the book is slow and low voiced, yet insisting. It is a person with many unresolved feelings and also an unresolved marriage even after its death.
«A Separation» is Kitamura´s third and latest novel. It was published earlier this year and is now available in Norwegian translation. Also, it is projected to be adapted to a screenplay next year.
- Minati Bye