Jennie Erdal’s Ghosting: A Double Life – A must read for every writer

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This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series Reviews Season Three

Jennie Erdal’s Ghosting: A Double Life is a memoir on the art of creative writing and translation, and Ubaji Abubakar Ishaq Easy notes that every budding writer should read or own a copy of the book!

There are stories you read and you are left seeking the verisimilitude and plausibility of the actions. Yes, fictions places such doubts in a reader’s mind yet fiction is as real as reality, for reality has always provided the backdrop for the imagination inherent in fiction. This is, perhaps, why we can confidently say art mirrors life.

But what if that which you have with you falls under the category of non-fiction, what if it is a memoir like Jennie Erdal’s Ghosting: A Double Life? A memoir where you meet an unbelievable character like Tiger with the Midas touch not because everything he touches turns gold but because he is ruled by emotions rather than reason. Yet, his decisions (made without much thinking) seem to yield the best results and his business never crumbles; such a lucky man!

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Tiger is that man who will pay a ‘king’s’ ransom for the safe return of a property, a man who would invite a forensic expert to find out who messed up his restroom, a man living the extravagant and ostentatious life of a king and wanting everyone to worship at his feet, he is a publisher who becomes famous for being a writer yet very few know that there is a secret behind his writing – he never was a writer in the first place! Tiger is most certainly not the kind of man you walk into every time you visit the mall and were this not a memoir, I could have been tempted to scrutinize its verisimilitude.

Well ladies and gentlemen, allow me to officially welcome you to the world of Jennie Erdal’s Ghosting: A Double Life.

When Jennie Erdal accepts to work as a book translator and editor with a publisher in London whom she nicknamed Tiger, little did she expect that her life would take a far different and scintillating turnaround. She later becomes his alter ego, thinking for him; and in fact thinking as he would. She would become his ghost writer turning his absurd ideas into beautiful stories, she exists as a woman who must think as a man, but the snag of it is that she began losing her own identity as a person for she could only think of herself in relation to Tiger, she became a thrall existing merely to serve his needs. If this were all, the book would still be interesting but here we have two opposite individuals pulled together like the opposite sides of magnets. For five and ten years, she would stand by Tiger and work for him writing out the ideas in his head; ideas he could never manage to write himself; making him live his dream as a writer without ever sitting down to compose a story. I must say that I wonder how both characters got on working so close without ever having a little romance or even becoming lovers! What is quite noticeable in the story is the polar contrast between both characters, yet both become quite inseparable so that when Jennie announces that she would be leaving him, Tiger realises also that it was time to retire from writing and went on to announce it.

“The icing on the cake in this story is that in writing this memoir, Jennie Erdal espouses a lot on creative writing and the act of translation. She takes us through the unfamiliar dark corners and enlightens us, using practical examples, on writing and translation…

Meeting a character like Tiger in a story with the knowledge that such a man exists in real life has come to make me wonder how very little I know about human beings and forces me to concur that some of the characters we encounter in fiction are but replicas of actual people, even when their mien appears to be quite surprising, obnoxious, and unreasonable.

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For me, the icing on the cake in this story is that in writing this memoir, Jennie Erdal espouses a lot on creative writing and the act of translation. She takes us through the unfamiliar dark corners and enlightens us, using practical examples, on writing and translation. Indeed, the memoir could easily read like an explication on the art of creative writing and translation bereft of the formality attached to textbooks on the same subject. There is a lot to learn from Jennie’s experiences on the job of ghost writing and translation for every writer, and I think every budding writer should read or own a copy of this book!

The author is obviously a philologist for her love of language(s) is evident in her life and the story which she tells in a deft manner. Her diction is simple and humorous, especially as she walks us down the memory lane of her childhood days; capturing the mind of a child attempting to comprehend the magic of language. With her, we come in contact with linguistics freshness and come to see the endless possibilities manifest in the use and application of language.

Surely, Jennie Erdal’s Ghosting is one book I shall have to read again!

© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2018

Read Eazy’s reviews every Saturday.

Series Navigation<< Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North: A journey into North Africa’s literary arena Sterility of the new African middle-class and post-independence disillusionment: a review of Sembene Ousmane’s Xala >>

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Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy

Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy holds a degree in English language and literary studies. He is a short story writer, copy editor, book reviewer, literary critic, poet, and essayist. He teaches English as a Foreign Language in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

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