GHOST LITERATURE

Literature about ghosts should not be confused with ghost literature. One thing is a literary work featuring a ghost and another thing is a literary work written by a ghost. In the latter case, furthermore, we must differentiate between a writer ghost and a ghost writer -who isn’t even really a ghost. (This mess was not unrelated to the philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein’s decision to resign his chair at Cambridge and get a job as dispensary porter.) Oddly enough, ghostly authors don’t usually write about ghosts. The Victorian novelist Nestor Voight Galloway, for example (a ghost who haunted the house where he’d died, until he was evicted), never wrote the word ‘ghost’ in any of his novels, to the extent that literary critics have speculated that he didn’t even believe in ghosts -or at least not in white sheet ghosts. In his semi-autobiographical novel ‘The Suffragist Duck’, Galloway speaks of a “shapeless silhouette floating around”, but he is referring to a living being: his mother Mrs. Harriet Voight, who went everywhere in a hot air balloon. For his part, the protagonist, who on his wedding night discovers that he has married a duck and hangs himself from a lamp, does not become a ghost after his death, but simply disappears from the narrative and does not reappear until he is involuntarily resurrected by a chorus of squirrels as they inadvertently utter the magic word ‘syncope’.

THE WRITER GHOST N. V. GALLOWAY

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