‘Ghostwritten’ by David Mitchell

Ghostwritten book coverGhostwritten was David Mitchell’s first novel [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1999] and one that immediately brought him to the attention of the literary world.

Here was a young man whose novel-writing skills seemed already perfectly formed and who could gently break the rules of classical form in a creative way. It consists of nine chapters and a brief epilogue.   Each chapter is its own self-contained novella with high drama and mordant wit. Yet each is cross-referenced in some way to other chapter or chapters; clues the contented reader picks up with interest and satisfaction.

There are elements of the paranormal which in Mitchell’s hands acquire a convincing degree of normality. He writes about Japan, and about Ireland, and of many other places in between and does so from first-hand knowledge. All of these features and more begin to create a David Mitchell authorial persona that will go on to develop, expand and mature over the next fifteen years. He is without doubt one of the best novelists in the English language so far this century.

The whole published opus deserves to be read and reread. Each successive novel adds to the collection of cross-references, making his work into what he himself has called an ϋber-novel but which I prefer to think of as his personal stylistic trait. For those who come new to Mitchell, there is merit in reading through his novels in the published order so as to build up one’s personal collection of links and recurring themes but no harm either in reading them as they come across your horizon.

Alas, there is one of his novels I may very well never read since it is scheduled for publication in 2114!   Mitchell is the second author, Margaret Atwood was the first, to contribute to the so-called Future Library project and delivered his book ‘From Me Flows What You Call Time’ on May 28, 2016. It is now under wraps in Oslo for the next hundred years.

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