On paper, A Separation is my kind of read. In actuality, well, turns out it is anything but. While it ticks all the ‘in’ boxes (an unnamed narrator, ambiguous storyline, no quotation marks), the ‘story’ and characters were dusty, dull, done-to-death. Our narrator is an interpreter who lives and works in The Hague and works for the International Court where her latest assignment sees her interpreting for a former president, much beloved by his people, who stands accused of many atrocious war crimes. She’s in a lukewarm relationship with Adriaan, a man who can be best described as being as interesting as Wonder Bread. The guy’s wife left him but they are still married and that’s about it. Our protagonist thinks about this woman in a wannabe-Rebecca kind of way.
Our narrator has a friend Jana whose characterisation is risible. Nothing she said rang true (to me of course, feel free to disagree and nay at this review), nor did it succeed in being absurd, if that even was what it was going for. Jana mentions to our mc that she saw someone being attacked in her neighbourhood and for some reason, our mc goes on to find this man’s workplace and goes there because of reasons unknown.
Nothing seems to happen. We have stilted interactions between the same two or three characters, some uninspired comments about violence, the judicial system, language, and the tricky nature of interpretation. I was particularly disappointed by the language aspect of this narrative. I am bilingual (and i am taken for a foreigner in both of the languages i speak…go figure) and my mother has been a translator for…well, all my life. So, naturally, I am interested in languages and translation, and I am keen on reading books that explore these fields. A Separation regurgitates the same tired ideas on these topics, and even the interpretation angle felt poorly explored. The scenes taking place at the Court were odd, particularly for the way they were executed.
There is no plot as such. The mc wastes some time navel-gazing, thinking not so deep thoughts. She has a few repetitive and inauthentic encounters and exchanges with the same group of not so believable characters ….and that’s it. The whole relationship between her and this married man was bah. Who cares? Not me! I am tired of reading this same type of heterosexual sort-of-love-triangle. Jana seemed forgotten by the narrative and sidelined to make space for that man who was attacked. This guy goes on to deliver a stilted monologue that sounded so insincere.
In short, A Separation was a vexing read. I recommend you check out more positive reviews before you decide whether to read this or not (on the plus size, it’s a short read).
my rating: ★★☆☆☆