Tales from Okinawa, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Holy Mountain, Mongolia, St.Petersburg,
London, Clear Island, Night Train, Underground Petersburg
I am going to tell you a secret. Everything is about wanting.
Everything. Things happen because of people wanting. Watch closely,
and youll see what I mean. But like I said, Im not a political
woman. The things you think of, sitting here.
Its probable that Ghostwritten, the first published work by David
Mitchell would not have existed unless Haruki Murakami had proved that
there is an audience for surreal, magic realism novels set in the Far
East. Indeed, the first and second stories in this shining collection
of stories owe a great debt to Japanese writers and Murakami in particular.
It is as if he has synthesised many of them and passed them back in
a new translation.
I am not taking anything away from David Mitchell, I love this book.
I particularly enjoyed the Holy Mountain story of the woman born of
a terrible rape whose destiny it is to run the tea house on the holy
mountain and watch all of Chinas modern history pass her by. This
leads so well to the Mongolia story and a parasitic host that is searching
for the meaning of existence. These are wonderful stories, but it does
feel as though Murakami has stood on his shoulders and guided his pen.
For readers who have not read Japanese fiction in translation, David
Mitchell will appear to be fresh and electrifying and the power of his
vision and characterisation is all his own. There is a story of Mo,
the scientist trying to escape her fate by hiding in Ireland with her
son and blind husband. This is unique, confusing, enthralling, an excellent
comment on power, the Gulf War and the responsibilities of science.
Of course these stories are separate, short fictions. But like a novel,
each chapter has a trace of a character from the last threaded through
it and one keeps wanting this book to be just that, a novel, and it
is a little frustrating to lose these wonderful characters so quickly.
Ghostwritten is a wonderful debut work, without doubt one of the best
you will read. Better yet, David Mitchell makes history and an alien
culture current and alive, the book is painless, accessible and agony
to put down. It will be exceedingly interesting to see what he produces
© Sam North