Ghostwritten

We all think we’re in control of our own lives, but really they’re pre-ghost-

written by forces around us (Mitchell 1999: 296).

According to Sarah Dillon, in Ghostwritten Mitchell purposely and systematically twins the ‘microscopic repetition of motifs and phrases’ with ‘the macroscopic repetition and intersection of characters and themes’ to indicate the links between the novel’s textual structure and authorial message of global connectivity (2011a: 137). Certainly, the intratextuality of the novel is the driving force for narrative synthesis as globalising processes are incorporated into the everyday experience of diverse individuals; in forcing characters to penetrate the lives of related others and ensuring individual trajectories seep into interdependent narratives, Ghostwritten destabilises heterogeneous localities and existing modes of belonging. The title of the novel itself betrays how the complex infringement of local and global flows influence and shape cultural connectivities. To emphasise the convergence of such disparate cultures, the nine interconnected narratives are set in different geographical locations around the globe, ranging from Tokyo to Russia to Western Ireland. Mitchell rejects a linear narrative in favour of synchronous narratives which progressively coincide with one another, allowing the novel to reflect the interdependencies ofthe globalised world, interrogate the politics of cultural diffusion, and demonstrate Mitchell’s talents for multicultural ventriloquism.2 Further, as Mitchell acknowledges, ‘[t]he far-flung locations’ of the narrative allow him to ‘test-drive this interconnected novel about interconnection more strenuously’ (2001: n.pag.). By examining the cosmopolitics of the post-millennial world across an ever-shifting narratorial landscape, the novel promotes the implementation of active ethical agency and positions cosmopolitanism as a corrective to what Mitchell sees as the worst traits of Western globalisation. The two processes of cosmopolitanism and globalisation are united by the promise and threat of cultural interdependence - a vast ocean of crisscrossing lives mingling and interconnecting in an increasingly transnational world. The penetration of localised experience by unprecedented global forces in the contemporary moment suggests that the ‘global’ and ‘local’, for Mitchell, are interrelated concepts through which to analyse societal fragility.

Such fusion reflects the cultural and institutional interdependence of global society, whereby ‘developments at the local level [... ] can acquire almost instantaneous global consequences’ creating ‘an extraordinary potential space for human development as well as for disruption and destruction by individuals, groups or states’ (Held 2010: 296). The synergy and thematic interplay of the local and the global in the novel provides the means by which the contemporary moment can be realised. Through the construction of a global narrative structure and concentration on world cultures, Mitchell emerges as a new breed of author who imagines an isomorphic relationship between nations and resists the demarcation of the global landscape into unconnected zones of influence, instead emphasising how the individual trajectories of global citizens expose the porosity of nation-states. And yet, the trans-territorial narrative reveals the present day to not only be marked by global interconnectedness, but vast socioeconomic discrepancies and the uprooting of citizens and communities. In this way, Ghostwritten supports Beck’s notion of the ‘cosmopolitanization of reality’, by which an individual’s life becomes ‘part of another world, of foreign cultures, religions, histories and global interdependencies’, connecting nation-states (2006: 19). Accordingly, processes of globalisation result in an escalation of transnational crises which expose the instabilities and limitations of progressive and egalitarian cultural engagement. In examining how local interdependencies and ethical values struggle against the dislocating effects of globalising practices, the novel’s architectural structure reveals the fragile balance that exists between cultural connectivity and societal catastrophe.

 
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