Intimacy. Ziyad Marar.

Intimacy. Understanding The Subtle Power of Human Connection. Ziyad Marar. Acumen Publishing, 2012.


This is the second book I have read from Ziyad Marar. The former, “Happiness Paradox” was a nice and informative read (see here for my comments in Turkish). Admittedly, that had been a bit depressing as it suggested that happiness, as a sought after state of mind, is practically beyond permanent reach. Here, the problem begins with the definition of the term “intimacy”. I was struggling to translate what intimacy meant in my native language (Turkish) in which there was no single word match. Now I know that describing what it really means is also somewhat elusive for English speaking folks as well. What a relief!

Marar is a serious writer who not only “knows” what he is writing about but also tries his best to make his thinking “readable”. The book can still be a tough read for a variety of reasons. One is simply the nature of the subject matter which is quite delicate and slippery!  Another is our ongoing need for intimacy and an almost simultaneous resistance to it. We need just the right amount of intimacy from the right people (practically always of opposite sex) at the right time for an agrreable period. Like happiness, intimacy seems to fly away if you try too hard to hold onto it.

Marar examines “kiss” as a chapter and provides ample citations from books, TV series and movies. Among these, “Lost in Translation” by Sofia Coppola has a special place. The examples provided do illuminate the intricacies of an intimate relationship and barriers to intimacy. These four are listed as the enablers of intimacy in the right context : Mutual knowledge, confidentiality, emotion and kindness. Watching the above mentioned movie helped me understand the book much better, I must say…

As this is not a book on cooking or chess; the readers are unlikely to find intimacy more easily by reading it. A better expectation might be getting a better understanding of our need for intimacy. Like becoming able to see why two apparent strangers can have an intimate relationship (not necessarily including sexuality) while many married couples never ever experience it.

Marar gives literature (and art, in general) a special place in understanding and experiencing intimacy. So I finish by a quote by Marar from E. M. Forster  (Aspects of The Novel, 2005) : “All history, all our experience, teaches us that no human relationship is constant, it is as unstable as the living human beings who compose it, and they must balance like jugglers if it is to remain; if it is constant it is no longer a relationship but a social habit“.

The most often repeated message in the book is that “one can never have intimacy without risking being hurt badly”.

Intimacy is hard to find, easy to lose.


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