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Ghostwritten
by David Mitchell

Published: 2001-10-09
Paperback : 426 pages
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David Mitchell's electrifying debut novel takes readers on a mesmerizing trek across a world of human experience through a series of ingeniously linked narratives.

Oblivious to the bizarre ways in which their lives intersect, nine characters-a terrorist in Okinawa, a record-shop clerk in ...
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Introduction

David Mitchell's electrifying debut novel takes readers on a mesmerizing trek across a world of human experience through a series of ingeniously linked narratives.

Oblivious to the bizarre ways in which their lives intersect, nine characters-a terrorist in Okinawa, a record-shop clerk in Tokyo, a money-laundering British financier in Hong Kong, an old woman running a tea shack in China, a transmigrating "noncorpum" entity seeking a human host in Mongolia, a gallery-attendant-cum-art-thief in Petersburg, a drummer in London, a female physicist in Ireland, and a radio deejay in New York-hurtle toward a shared destiny of astonishing impact. Like the book's one non-human narrator, Mitchell latches onto his host characters and invades their lives with parasitic precision, making Ghostwritten a sprawling and brilliant literary relief map of the modern world.

Editorial Review

"What is real and what is not?" David Mitchell's Ghostwritten: A Novel in Nine Parts plays with precisely this question throughout its elaborately compartmentalized narrative. (That there are 10 chapters in this 9-part invention is just one more aspect of the author's mysterious schema.) With its multitude of voices and globe-girdling locations--Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Petersburg, London--this first novel offers readers a vertiginous, sometimes seductive, display of persona and place.

At the heart of Mitchell's book is the global extension of the postmodern city, and the networks (cultural, technological, phantasmagoric) to which it gives rise. A metropolis like Tokyo is quite literally beyond our comprehension:

Twenty million people live and work in Tokyo. It's so big that nobody really knows where it stops. It's long since filled up the plain, and now it's creeping up the mountains to the west and reclaiming land from the bay in the east. The city never stops rewriting itself. In the time one street guide is produced, it's already become out of date. It's a tall city, and a deep one, as well as a spread-out one.
At this level, urban sprawl becomes an epistemological condition. On one hand it leads to a Japanese death cult, purging the "unclean" from the city's subway with nerve gas. And on the other, it produces a certain splintering of the human personality. "I'm this person, I'm this person, I'm that person, I'm that person too," chants Neal, the narrator of the book's second part. "No wonder it's all such a ... mess." He's talking about his life as a Hong Kong trader, a "man of departments, compartments, apartments." But he might also be describing the experience of reading Ghostwritten. At once loquacious and knowing, leisurely and frantic, Mitchell offers a huge, but fragmentary, portmanteau. And while he's labored diligently to solder together the many parts--the aching bodies, the reality police, the impossibly complex machinery of contemporary life--his novel, too, may suffer from an excess of split personality. --Vicky Lebeau

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