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Saturday, July 7, 2012

"The Ghostwriter" by Zoran Zivkovic (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)



INTRODUCTION: Zoran Zivkovic is an author who should be a household name for any lover of Eastern European fantastica, that blend of the real and unreal set in a world that is both familiar and strange and whose best known practitioners in the Western world are probably Kafka, Bulgakov and Lem

 (some of the wonderful print editions I own of his books in addition to the various e's)

Over the past 10-15 years I have been reading various works of Zoran Zivkovic as they have been appearing in English, though I sort of lost track of his books in the past few years until yesterday and a pdf e-arc of The Ghostwriter courtesy of PS Publishing which entranced me from the first page, made me gather again the books I already have and buy a few more from Amazon Kindle for good measure, so now I have all his English language works except the last novel, The Five Wonders of the Danube which has not yet been published in the UK or the US. Expect more reviews of his work as I read or occasionally even reread them...

"A writer sits down to work, but who can resist the addictive temptation of the email inbox? Each message alert brings a new question and a fresh challenge, until a tangled web weaves its way around the hapless author. Yet all the while his cat, Felix, gets on with life regardless. Zoran Zivkovic’s hilarious new novella lays bare the oddities and absurdities of the writing life: the traps writers set for themselves and the snares readers lay for them. Here, too, are fascinating puzzles about the nature of authorship and the writer’s identity, the relationship between the writer and their work and between the writer and the reader, the reader and that which is read. Above all, though, it is a paean to the Cat, to a relationship which in its simplicity and innocence, its playfulness and affection, makes nonsense of all these human perplexities. "

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "The Ghostwriter" is a lighter and funnier piece but with a serious underlying theme that took over my reading yesterday and I could not put it down until finished. The first few lines quoted below attracted my attention and from then on the virtual doings of our narrator and his email obsession as well as his adventures both past and present with his spoiled tomcat Felix proved impossible to resist.

"HAD THE EMAIL STARTED ANY OTHER WAY, I certainly would have deleted it immediately. For a long time I have saved almost every message and replied to most of them, but finally I came to my senses. Now I only save the ones that seem important because there is less and less time. But what writer could resist the flattery of a devotee, even an anonymous one?

Highly Esteemed Writer,

I am a great fan of your work. I have a business proposal to make in this regard. Would you be interested in hearing about it?

Sincerely,
An Admirer"

So we meet the narrator, a quite successful but loner writer who is going currently through a "drought" and who has developed an email addiction. For a while now he has been entertaining long email conversations with four other persons, all identified by pseudonyms as he also uses one too, being "Felix" in cyberspace: "OpenSea" - a bitter unsuccessful writer, "Banana" a wannabe lady writer with a fixation on our hero, "Pandora" an elderly neighboring lady with an old dog and "P-0" a writer of pastiches (fan fiction) of our hero's work...

As it happens all four correspondents, the "admirer" and Felix the cat, gang on our hero in a convoluted tale that is both superbly brought together and utterly funny. The clues to the identity of the unknown correspondent are scattered throughout the story and if by the end you are still in doubt, an excellent afterword by Michael Morrison will spell it for you, but "The Ghostwriter" will enchant nonetheless and you may find yourself visiting Amazon and getting some of the numerous inexpensive drm-free ebooks of the author or some of the superbly realized print editions which are more boutique-like...

Overall The Ghostwriter is highly recommended and a very good introduction to the author's work. 

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