Harry Whitewolf's Reviews > The Ghosts of Nagasaki

The Ghosts of Nagasaki by Daniel Clausen
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it was amazing
bookshelves: general-fiction

I think I've just found my new favourite author. At one point in Ghosts of Nagasaki, the protagonist is asked “So, you like to write?” To which he replies, “No, I desperately want to quit, but I can’t.” I have a feeling the author may have been talking about himself there, because this book reeks of an idea that was germinated and accumulated in a prose confused head until it eventually forced the writer to put pen to paper. (Or finger to key). And, for me, that's the secret of a great writer: they don't actually choose to write in the first place.

It's almost like The Rum Diary (or even Three Men In A Boat, humour-banter-wise) at the start, only in the set up of the wonder of being in a foreign land with big money is in reality mostly drunken nights out with the immediate company you keep; in this case the much loved, frank speaking Welshman who compliments and sometimes completes the main character. The banter comes fast, the laughs rise themselves from the page and infect the reader, and there's a sheer joy at reading Clausen's distinctive and often poetic prose, with sharp insights and killer skills of weaving a good story.

I'm sure most readers will hanker on to those first weeks with the Welshman, but it's not long before this book builds and strays into stranger and wilder territories. When the ghosts appear, that's when the story really takes off. But what's meant by ghosts? The ghosts of the protagonist's orphan and foster family childhood, the ghosts in his head, the ghosts of books and writers coming to life, a girl with red shoes, a most adorable Welsh dragon, the... perhaps everyone and everything's a ghost. And perhaps the ghosts in his head only manifest themselves because he's in a land where ghosts exist more, because of the Japanese spiritual attitudes of the place. Time ceases to be linear. It's more Incan in origin, where the past and present run parallel. But actually, just forget all that. This is just one man's story. The boundaries of reality don't matter by the end. The island where hearts are grown is real enough in the purifying tale of this man in Japan.

At times I felt like I was reading Are You Experienced? At other times I was absorbed in a Hundred Years of Solitude and Famished Road type world. The blend of humour, metaphysical magic and emotional journeys was mixed just right for this reader. I mean, you even get philosophy from Kermit The Frog in this book. Buy it now.

Harry Whitewolf (Author of Route Number 11 and The Road To Purification).
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Quotes Harry Liked

Daniel Clausen
“In retrospect, I came to Nagasaki for the regenerative properties. The second atomic bomb blast so many years ago, which had swept up most of the city in a plutonium cloud, had made the city radioactively peace-loving. Reversing the usual cycle that turns victim into perpetrator, the people who stepped from the rubble filled their hearts with a fervent devotion to peace in all its forms.

In my mind's eye I see them: wounded and dying, their lungs filled with ash and smoke. The ash sits there for some time, and when they exhale, miraculously, something akin to love comes out.”
Daniel Clausen, The Ghosts of Nagasaki

Daniel Clausen
“Let the bullshitters have their bullshit. You and me, we have lives to live. And once you open your mouth to respond to their bullshit--well, that's when you're knee-deep in it.”
Daniel Clausen, The Ghosts of Nagasaki

Daniel Clausen
“I cannot tell you with any great certainty where I am from, what I do, or what I did, for as soon as the telling begins the things that happened change. The only thing I can tell you reliably is that soon I will be dead. The fact that I am not already dead, that I have lived on years after my heart stopped, is indeed a miracle”
Daniel Clausen, The Ghosts of Nagasaki

Reading Progress

November 8, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
November 8, 2014 – Shelved
December 26, 2014 – Started Reading
January 12, 2015 – Shelved as: general-fiction
January 12, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Lynda (new)

Lynda Great review, Harry. Philosophy from the frog? Thought you might appreciate this:

Harry Whitewolf Thanks Lynda. :)
And that Muppet Philosophy is great! Ha! Thanks for sharing. (There's got to be a book in Muppet Philosophy somewhere, surely. Ah, which reminds me of how much I loved The Tao of Pooh when I first read it.)

Jason Might have to move this book up my reading list now.

Harry Whitewolf Jason wrote: "Might have to move this book up my reading list now."

Do! It's brilliant. :)

Jason Is it paperback only?

Harry Whitewolf Nope. Here's the Kindle edition: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...

Jason Hmmm none of the links to shops work, only been able to locate the paperback so far, will keep hunting.

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