Ghostwritten

Ghostwritten

by David Mitchell

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Overview

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas


A gallery attendant at the Hermitage. A young jazz buff in Tokyo. A crooked British lawyer in Hong Kong. A disc jockey in Manhattan. A physicist in Ireland. An elderly woman running a tea shack in rural China. A cult-controlled terrorist in Okinawa. A musician in London. A transmigrating spirit in Mongolia. What is the common thread of coincidence or destiny that connects the lives of these nine souls in nine far-flung countries, stretching across the globe from east to west? What pattern do their linked fates form through time and space?

A writer of pyrotechnic virtuosity and profound compassion, a mind to which nothing human is alien, David Mitchell spins genres, cultures, and ideas like gossamer threads around and through these nine linked stories. Many forces bind these lives, but at root all involve the same universal longing for connection and transcendence, an axis of commonality that leads in two directions—to creation and to destruction. In the end, as lives converge with a fearful symmetry, Ghostwritten comes full circle, to a point at which a familiar idea—that whether the planet is vast or small is merely a matter of perspective—strikes home with the force of a new revelation. It marks the debut of a writer of astonishing gifts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375724503
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/09/2001
Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 342,845
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of Slade House, The Bone Clocks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, andGhostwritten. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. With KA Yoshida, Mitchell translated from the Japanese the internationally bestselling memoir The Reason I Jump. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

Read an Excerpt













OKINAWA
Who was blowing on the nape of my neck?
I swung around. The tinted glass doors hissed shut. The light was bright. Synthetic ferns swayed, very gently, up and down the empty lobby. Nothing moved in the sun-smacked car park. Beyond, a row of palm trees and the deep sky.
"Sir?"
I swung around. The receptionist was still waiting, offering me her pen, her smile as ironed as her uniform. I saw the pores beneath her make-up, and heard the silence beneath the muzak, and the rushing beneath the silence.
"Kobayashi. I called from the airport, a while ago. To reserve a room." Pinpricking in the palms of my hands. Little thorns.
"Ah, yes, Mr. Kobayashi. . ." So what if she didn't believe me? The unclean check into hotels under false names all the time. To fornicate, with strangers. "If I could just ask you to fill in your name and address here, sir ... and your profession?"
I showed her my bandaged hand. "I'm afraid you'll have to fill the form in for me."
"Certainly ... My, how did that happen?"
"A door closed on it."
She winced sympathetically, and turned the form around. "Your profession, Mr. Kobayashi?"
"I'm a software engineer. I develop products for different companies, on a contract-by-contract basis."
She frowned. I wasn't fitting her form. "I see, no company as such, then . . ."
"Let's use the company I'm working with at the moment." Easy. The Fellowship's technology division will arrange corroboration.
"Fine, Mr. Kobayashi...Welcome to the Okinawa Garden Hotel."
"Thank you."????????
"Are you visiting Okinawa for business or for sightseeing, Mr. Kobayashi?" ????????
Was there something quizzical in her smile? Suspicion in her face?
"Partly business, partly sightseeing. "I deployed my alpha control voice.
"We hope you have a pleasant stay. Here's your key, sir. Room 307. If we can assist you in any way, please don't hesitate to ask."
You? Assist me? "Thank you."
Unclean, unclean. These Okinawans never were pureblooded Japanese. Different, weaker ancestors. As I turned away and walked toward the elevator, my ESP told me she was smirking to herself. She wouldn't be smirking if she knew the caliber of mind she was dealing with. Her time will come, like all the others.
Not a soul was stirring in the giant hotel. Hushed corridors stretched into the noontime distance, empty as catacombs.
There's no air in my room. Use of air-conditioning is prohibited in Sanctuary because it impairs alpha waves. To show solidarity with my brothers and sisters, I switched it off and opened the windows. The curtains I keep drawn. You never know whose telephoto lens might be looking in.
I looked out into the eye of the sun. Naha is a cheap, ugly city. But for the background band of Pacific aquamarine this city could be any tentacle of Tokyo. The usual red-and-white TV transmitter, broadcasting the government's subliminal command frequencies. The usual department stores rising like windowless temples, dazzling the unclean into compliance. The urban districts, the factories pumping out poison into the air and water supplies. Fridges abandoned in wastegrounds of lesser trash. What grafted-on pieces of ugliness are their cities! I imagine the New Earth sweeping this festering mess away like a mighty broom, returning the land to its virginal state. Then the Fellowship will create something we deserve, which the survivors will cherish for eternity.
I cleaned myself and examined my face in the bathroom mirror. You are one such survivor, Quasar. Strong features, highlighting my samurai legacy. Ridged eyebrows. A hawkish nose. Quasar, the harbinger. His Serendipity had chosen my name prophetically. My role was to pulse at the edge of the universe of the faithful, alone in the darkness. An outrider. A herald.
The extractor fan droned. Somewhere beyond its drone I could hear a little girl, sobbing. So much sadness in this twisted world. I began shaving.
I awoke early, not remembering where I was for the first few moments. Jigsaw pieces of my dream lay dropped around. There had been Mr. Ikeda, my home-room teacher from high school, and two or three of the worst bullies. My biological father had appeared too. I remembered that day when the bullies had got everyone in the class to pretend that I was dead. By afternoon it had spread through the whole school. Everyone pretended they couldn't see me. When I spoke they pretended they couldn't hear me. Mr. Ikeda got to hear about it, and as a society-appointed guardian of young minds what did he take it upon himself to do? The bastard conducted a funeral service for me during the final home-room hour. He'd even lit some incense, and led the chanting, and everything.
Before His Serendipity lit my life I was defenseless. I sobbed and screamed at them to stop, but nobody saw me. I was dead.
After awakening, I found I was tormented with an erection. Too much gamma wave interference. I meditated under my picture of His Serendipity until it had subsided.
If it's funerals the unclean want, they shall have them aplenty, during the White Nights, before His Serendipity rises to claim his kingdom. Funerals with no mourners.
I walked down the Kokusai Dori, the main street of the city, doubling back and weaving off to lose anybody who was trailing me. Unfortunately my alpha potential is still too weak to achieve invisibility, so I have to shake trailers the old-fashioned way. When I was sure nobody was following me I ducked into a games center and placed a call from a telephone booth. Public call boxes are much less likely to be bugged.
"Brother, this is Quasar. Please connect me with the minister of defense."
"Certainly, brother. The minister is expecting you. Permit me to congratulate you on the success of our recent mission."
I was put on hold for a couple of moments. The minister of defense is a favorite of His Serendipity's. He graduated from the Imperial University. He was a judge, before hearing the call of His Serendipity. He is a born leader. "Ah, Quasar. Excellent. You are in good health?"
"On His Serendipity's service, Minister, I always enjoy good health. I have overcome my allergies, and for nine months I haven't suffered from-"
"We are delighted with you. His Serendipity is mightily impressed with the depth of your faith. Mightily impressed. He is meditating on your anima now, in his retreat. On yours alone, for fortification and enrichment."
"Minister! I beg you to convey my deepest thanks."
"Gladly. You've earned it. This is a war against the unclean myriad, and in this war acts of courage do not go unacknowledged, nor unrewarded. Now. You'll be wondering how long you are to remain away from your family. The Cabinet believes seven days will suffice."
"I understand, Minister." I bowed deeply.
"Have you seen the television reports?"
"I avoid the lies of the unclean state, Minister. For what snake would willingly heed the voice of the snakecharmer? Even though I am away from Sanctuary, His Serendipity's instructions are inscribed in my heart. I imagine we have caused a stir among the hornets."
"Indeed. They are talking about terrorism, showing the unclean foaming at the mouth. The poor animals are almost to be pitied-almost. As His Serendipity predicted, they are missing the point that it is their sins being visited on their heads. Be proud, Quasar, that you were one of the chosen ministers of justice! The 39th Sacred Revelation: Pride in one's sacrifice is not a sin but selfrespect. Keep a low profile, nonetheless. Blend in. Do a little sightseeing. I trust your expense account will suffice?"
"The treasurer was most generous, and my needs are simple."
"Very good. Contact us again in seven days. The Fellowship looks forward to welcoming our beloved brother home."
I returned to the hotel for my midday cleaning and meditation. I ate some crackers, seaweed snacks and cashew nuts, and drank green tea from a vending machine outside my room. When I went out again after lunch the unclean receptionist gave me a map, and I chose a tourist spot to visit.
The Japanese naval headquarters was set in a scrubby park at the top of a hill overlooking Naha, to the north. During the war it had been so well hidden that it took the invading Americans three weeks after they had seized Okinawa to stumble across it. The Americans are not a very bright race. They miss the obvious. Their embassy had the effrontery to deny His Serendipity a residence visa ten years ago. Now, of course, His Serendipity can come and go where he pleases using subspace conversion techniques. He has visited the White House several times, unhindered.
I paid for my ticket and went down the steps. The dim coolness welcomed me. A pipe somewhere was dripping. There was one more surprise waiting for the American invaders. In order to die an honorable death, the full contingent of four thousand men had taken their own lives. Twenty days previously.
Honor. What does this frothy, idol-riddled world of the unclean know of honor? Walking through the tunnels I stroked the walls with my fingertips. I stroked the scars on the wall, made by the grenade blasts and the picks that the soldiers had used to dig their stronghold, and I felt true kinship with them. The same kinship I feel at Sanctuary. With my enhanced alpha quotient, I was picking up on their anima residue. I wandered the tunnels until I lost track of the time.
As I left that memorial to nobility a coachload of tourists arrived. I took one look at them, with their cameras and potato-chip packets and their stupid Kansai expressions and their limbless minds with less alpha capacity than a housefly, and I wished that I had one more phial of the cleansing fluid left, so that I could lob it down the stairs after them and lock them in. They would be cleansed in the same way that the money-blinded of Tokyo had been cleansed. It would have appeased the souls of the young soldiers who had died for their beliefs decades ago, as I had been ready to do only seventy-two hours ago. They were betrayed by the puppet governments that despoiled our land after the war. As have we all been betrayed by a society evolving into markets for Disney and McDonald's. All that sacrifice, to build what? To build an unsinkable aircraft carrier for the United States.
But I had no phials left, and so I had to endure those unclean, chattering, defecating, spawning, defiling, cretins. Literally, they made me gasp for air.
I walked back down the hill under the palm trees.

Table of Contents

Okinawa1
Tokyo33
Hong Kong63
Holy Mountain107
Mongolia147
Petersburg197
London255
Clear Island311
Night Train373
Underground421

What People are Saying About This

Nicholas Blincoe

Ghostwritten imagines a literature for the twenty-first century.
The Guardian

Adam Lively

David Mitchell's first novel is a firework display. . . . The assurance and panache are truly remarkable. . . . This is a remarkable novel by a young writer of remarkable talent.
The Observer

Rachel Cusk

Boundless, fully imagined. . . the best modern novel I have read for some time.
Express on Sunday

Tibor Fischer

An astounding novel.

A. S. Byatt

This is one of the best first novels I've read for a long time. It's told in a series of gripping, interconnecting tales, in many voices, all of them imaginatively urgent. For all the plot's dazzling complexity, Mitchell's writing–which has many styles–is always simple and elegant. His people always engage the imagination, and the book is never clotted by its ambitions. It easily covers the global village but there's no sense that it's striving for multiculturalism or spectacular effects–just that Mitchell knows what he's doing. I read a proof of this on a transatlantic flight. When I got off in Atlanta, I couldn't put it down. I pulled my luggage in one hand along corridors and escalators, and held David Mitchell's last chapter up to my nose with the other. I finished at the carousel. It seemed appropriate. And it's even better the second time.

Lawrence Norfolk

Every one of these pages deserves and demands to be read and re-read. Ghostwritten is an astounding debut.
The Independent

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Ghostwritten 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I literally have no idea what I just read. None of the individual character stories were very interesting to me, but I forced myself to continue reading - hoping it would come together later, as Cloud Atlas did. I WAS SORELY DISSAPPINTED. I just finished and feel like I wasted my time. I suppose there is the chance that it went over my head and I failed to understand some greater meaning - but I missed the point entirely. I thoroughly enjoyed Cloud Atlas, which I read first, and that was fairly complicated and I loved it, so I just don't know if it was me or if the book just stunk. I vote stinky.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'd love to loan this out to my friends, but fear I wouldn't get it back. Fabulous writing. Plotting so tight you're not aware it's happening. Draws on a range of experiences and a depth of knowledge that should be impossible at his age. Perhaps Mr. Mitchell is the reincarnation of a past great writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I discovered Don Delillo not too long ago with White Noise, I was pleased to find that this great author was not new by any means, only new to me. This meant that there were many other books of his out there that I could look into. Such is not the case with David Mitchell though, as GhostWritten is his first novel (although you wouldn't know it upon reading it). He seems too polished and talented for this to be his first book. I now wish all the books that I read were written by him. I was amazed at just how good this book was, and like AHWOSG by Eggers, it just got better and better the further you read. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone, regardless of tastes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book and enjoyed it very much and then read the reviews here and realized I completely missed the reoccuring symbolism and other 'writerly devices.' I read the book just as an interesting book and enjoyed it very much, especially the section set in China, which functions very well as an unique view of the events that have taken place in China's history. I also enjoyed seeing how the characters all inter-related. My only con was that I felt, to truly understand the book deeply, you would have to read it with a fine tooth comb, which would be very well suited for a modern lit college class, but not for reading for enjoyment. I think this would be a more enjoyable book the second time around, but I was not overly tempted to start the book all over again. My rec is to buy this if you want to work through your read, not sleep through it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This collection of shortstories defies categorisation. The cover reviews talk about cyberpunk, but I have no idea what that means. To me, this a book in an old-fashioned and tried and trusted tradition of great storytelling. Characters are fantastically rich, and the references to Eastern mythology add greatly to this work. A simply tremendous book.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Ghostwritten is the first novel by British author, David Mitchell. Told by nine different narrators, with a plot spanning centuries and continents, this is an amazing debut novel. The narrators are a member of a doomsday cult who releases poison gas in a subway in Tokyo, and details his retreat to Okinawa and a small nearby island, Kume-jima; a jazz aficionado who works as a sales clerk in a Tokyo music store; a lawyer in a financial institution in Hong Kong who has been moving large sums of money from a certain account; a woman who owns a Tea Shack on China's Holy Mountain and speaks to a tree; a non-corporeal sentient entity which is searching for who or what it is; a gallery attendant in Petersburg who is involved in an art theft scam; a ghostwriter/drummer living in London who saves a woman from being run over by a taxi; an Irish nuclear physicist who quits her job when she finds her research is being used for military purposes; and a late night radio talkback DJ who finds himself fielding calls from an intriguing caller referring to himself as the zookeeper. Mitchell weaves together these nine narrations into a cohesive whole with vague or occasionally direct references to a myriad of common themes, characters, objects, or words (including, but not limited to, albino conger eels, camphor trees, an earth-bound comet, Kilmagoon whiskey, jazz music, cleaning toilets and artificial intelligence) in each narration. His characters muse on, ponder and articulate on various themes: love/lust; chance/fate; brainwashing; propaganda; one's own place in the world; why we are who we are; principles; and the character of London Underground Lines; There is humour, irony, intrigue, and a plentiful helping of tongue-in-cheek comments. And when Mo Muntervary tells Father Wally “Phenomena are interconnected regardless of distance, in a holistic ocean more voodoo than Newton”, she could be describing Mitchell’s own love affair with connections: fans of Mitchell's work will also recognise certain characters and concepts from his other novels, in particular, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green and number9dream. This is a brilliant debut novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Best book I have read in a long time. It's bound to become a classic. As I read chapter after chapter I kept thinking, where does this guy get this stuff from? Totally amazing. Fresh, different and to the point. Right up to the minute. The perfect start to a new millenium. Now on my second read and its even better...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
The reviews claim this is "gracefully plotted", a "marvelous puzzle", or a "well-crafted relief map". Truly, more like "plodded", a puzzle that's missing pieces, lots of pieces, and a relief map? More like a map to nowhere, and a relief that the book was done! I really was looking forward to finding out what this special destiny was, or how the puzzle would come together. Time to sweep these pieces in a box and recycle...
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 2005, I read Cloud Atlas. I enjoyed this book as much - they are really good stories that I did not want to finish. The inter-relationships of the stories are fascinating. I have become a David Mitchell fan.
writestuff on LibraryThing 6 days ago
David Mitchell's debut novel - Ghostwritten - won the 1999 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for the best work of literature from a British author under the age of 35. After reading this complex, brilliantly crafted book, I can see why it won this prestigious award. I have come to expect a certain level of excellence from Mitchell having read his most recent novel Black Swan Green, as well as his 2004 masterpiece Cloud Atlas. Readers who have read other Mitchell works will be delighted to see some of the same characters re-appearing.Ghostwritten is a series of linked stories narrated by nine different characters. The novel spans the globe from the streets of Okinawa, Tokyo and Hong Kong to the rural wastelands of Mongolia to the historical city of Petersburg and the Hermitage Museum to the urban beauty of London to the desolate Irish landscape of Clear Island and finally to the dark streets of New York. Along the way, the reader is treated to Mitchell's pitch perfect prose, exposing our weaknesses and the power of human connectivity. The novel explores this idea of connectivity by demonstrating how each character is attached to the other, often without their knowledge, and how these associations impact the future. Another major theme of the novel is that of fate vs. chance.Mitchell also leaves the reader to wonder about the validity of his story. Are the events really happening? Or are they possibilities? What is real and what is not? he asks. And what of the title of this novel? Ghostwriters are professionals paid to write stories officially credited to someone else. A single author (the ghostwriter) may pose as several different people. How reliable are the narrators? Are they in fact a single person, pulling together the threads of an imagined tale?As with all Mitchell novels, this one will make the reader think. Beautifully crafted with fully imagined characters and events, Ghostwritten is a masterpiece of fiction.Highly recommended.
jbushnell on LibraryThing 6 days ago
It's kind of amazing that a story cycle containing so many different hot-button global elements (art thieves! disembodied souls! apocalyptic cults! artificial intelligences!) can end up feeling so oddly understated. The end result is something like one of Warren Ellis' Global Frequency trades, only four times the length and lacking most of the kinetic energy. Interesting enough to be worth finishing, but I would have preferred the faster, denser book that the subject matter suggests.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing 6 days ago
Well this wasn¿t as cohesive or as astonishing as promised. Yeah the stories had a common thread but the thread didn¿t matter half the time. The money launderer in Hong Kong sees the young record-shop kid with his girlfriend (he followed her there from Tokyo) is an example. Also, the cult-member terrorist guy calls a number that he thinks will help him out but really turns out to be the record-store. Made no difference in events, just a curiosity. I think this works more as a set of short stories than a novel.
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing 6 days ago
Having read Number 9 Dream earlier this year, I decided to venture back to Mitchell's debut novel. All in all, I was very pleased with (most of) its characters, but at a few points I could see that Mitchell's writing style was significantly less developed in this one. Still, Neal and the noncorpum were probably my favorite characters, though I also enjoyed Mo and Bat. It was a very well written and highly enjoyable book, and I would recommend it.
sabreader on LibraryThing 6 days ago
Having read a few of Mitchell's later novels, I was looking forward to reading this one, his first. And I wasn't disappointed. I love the different styles and povs in each chapter, and how they are interconnected. I also loved the bits that detached from realism. All in all a great read.
jennyo on LibraryThing 11 days ago
I've been caught up in another of David Mitchell's fabulous books for several days now. This one is very much like Cloud Atlas in its structure and themes. It even has some of the same characters. Mitchell has the ability to write a novel in first person with multiple voices and make all those voices unique and believable. In this one, we have chapters narrated by a member of a cult, a teenaged Japanese saxophone player, a British lawyer living in Hong Kong, a woman who runs a tea shack on a holy mountain in China, a Russian woman with Mafia ties, a British ghostwriter, an Irish physicist, a New York DJ, and, I kid you not, a disembodied consciousness. Yeah, if you'd told me about that last one, I'd have laughed off the whole book and said, "No way am I gonna read that one." But, you know what? I loved it.I love the way Mitchell takes simple stories and weaves them together to make a huge, complex tapestry that covers the whole world, that shows just how connected everything is. I love the humor he brings to his stories. And I love the weight of them. While you're reading, you can just get caught up in how exciting they are, but when you finish, you can't help thinking about, oh, gosh, everything.I'm now in a bit of a quandary. There's only one more Mitchell book I haven't read. Number9Dream. Do I find a copy and blaze through it too, only to find myself without another Mitchell book to look forward to (at least for until he writes another one)? Or do I save Number9Dream for a day when I need something by an author I adore? I just don't know.In the meantime, here are some of my favorite quotes from Ghostwritten:p. 287 - "We're all ghostwriters, my boy. And it's not just our memories. Our actions, too. We all think we're in control of our own lives, but really they're pre-ghostwritten by forces around us."p. 329 - Technology is repeatable miracles.p.360 - Ah, Liam, the most malicious god is the god of the counted chicken.
daizylee on LibraryThing 12 days ago
Mitchell is, as always, astounding to read. You admire his books but you also enjoy them. I think he's grown since this one, but I would like to see him do something different. This is just a bit too close to Cloud Atlas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Words cannot do justice to this amazing book. Read it for yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mitchell gets you hooked right¿ away even when not having an idea where this novel is taking you. It takes you to many parts of this world. Superbly written. Witty, soul searching and entertaining.
jamjam More than 1 year ago
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