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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Ghostwriter

Zoran Živković

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To purchase The Ghostwriter

Title: The Ghostwriter
Author: Zoran Živković
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 92 pages
Original in: Serbian
Availability: in The Writer & The Ghostwriter - US
in The Writer & The Ghostwriter - UK
in The Writer & The Ghostwriter - Canada
L'écrivain fantôme - France
Il ghostwriter - Italia
  • Serbian title: Писац у најам
  • Translated by Alice Copple-Tošić
  • Originally published in Novels (2009); also published as a stand-alone (2012)

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable and quite clever

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . 11-12/2011 Michael A. Morrison

  From the Reviews:
  • "No work by Živković is without substance, and The Ghostwriter ponders the rights of authorship and the indeterminacy of identity in the Internet age. But at heart, it's a jeu d'esprit: a lighthearted, funny chronicle about a man, his cat, and a clutch of decidedly dire correspondents." - Michael A. Morrison, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The narrator of The Ghostwriter is a writer -- one who seems to spend most of his time playing with his cat, Felix, and obsessing over his email. A little gong-tone alerts him to every new arrival, and he can rarely resist immediately reading the latest missive (apparently he does not have a serious spam problem ...); he also carefully collects and archives (almost) all his email, in folders each devoted to a different correspondent.
       The narrator does maintain that:

     There is one bad thing about electronic mail. It forces people to change their identity.
       It begins with email addresses: he notes that for a while he was able to use his own name in his email address, but when he switched providers found it was already taken, forcing him to resort to a pseudonym. If: "A writer's name is his trademark", then 'writing' (even if only one's email (return-)address under a pseudonym is already potentially problematic.
       He also notes (exaggerates ?):
     Changing a writer's identity is not limited to email addresses alone, where it is compulsory, but has spread to electronic correspondence in general, although there is no obligation in this regard. Nothing stops writers from signing their emails with their real names, but many prefer to use their newly acquired pseudonym. [...] There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but all the writers I correspond with by email present themselves as someone else.
       This may be somewhat far-fetched or at least exaggerated -- most people's, and indeed most writers' experience is surely that people (including writers) sign email with their actual names ... -- but reinforces the basic point of the novel -- which is a reflection on the nature of authorship and attribution. Indeed, as the narrator reminds one correspondent: "Authorship is determined more by how one writers than one's name".
       The writer's pseudonym is his cat's name, Felix -- though he also signs some emails 'Writer' -- and he uses that even in emails replying to people he has actually met, like his neighbor, who uses the pseudonym Pandora. And so he is addressed as 'Felix', 'Mr. Felix', and 'Highly Esteemed Writer' by his correspondents.
       In The Ghostwriter, this Felix is juggling email exchanges with five different people, some entirely anonymous, some known to him in different capacities. What the email exchanges share is exploration of the idea of writing under a pseudonym. There's 'Admirer', who wants Felix to write a novel for him, which he can then claim as his own, for example. Or 'P-0', who writes pastiches of Felix's stories, and wants to take the process one step further. Or fellow writer 'OpenSea', who suggests Felix parody his own work under a pseudonym.
       Eventually, this dawns on Felix too:
Although conspicuous, it had slipped by me because of my total absorption in the cunning web being spun around me. Almost simultaneously, all five people I had been corresponding with this morning had come up with the idea of of a pseudonym. They all seemed to be in collusion
       The back and forth between Felix and his pushy correspondents, with their different demands and suggestions, is quite amusing, and allows for an interesting exploration of the question of authorship and attribution. Admirably, too, the five very different variations on the theme are brought quite nicely together: as usual, Živković is very good with the final knot tying his stories together.
       Yes, there's perhaps a bit much of the distracting cat -- the other Felix --, but overall The Ghostwriter is an enjoyable reflection on the nature of writing and identity.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 December 2017

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The Ghostwriter: Reviews: Zoran Živković: Other books by Zoran Zivkovic under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Zoran Živković was born in Belgrade in 1948.

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© 2017-2022 the complete review

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