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Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: The Ghost by Robert Harris

Audiobook: I like Robert Harris and have read several of his books, many of which have an historical grounding. As this was promoted as being different, I avoided it, but one day started up the audiobook and I was hooked. The premise is quite interesting. A ghost writer, never identified by name, has been hired to complete a famous ex-prime minister’s memoirs after the apparent suicide of the former “ghost.” There’s a very short deadline, and he’s dismayed to see the 600 pages left by his predecessor are virtually unreadable, boring in the extreme.

Then things get a bit complicated as Adam Lang, the subject of the memoir and supposed author, is indicted by the International Criminal Court for having permitted and encouraged the rendition and torture of suspects following the 9/11 attacks. I suppose it’s the height of irony that the country that created the Nuremberg courts, trials and executions, the United States, has withdrawn from participation in the ICC, along with the Sudan (its president was indicted) and Israel, although being one of the signatories. That it is perhaps afraid of subjecting its leaders to international sanctions for committing war crimes puts the U.S. in good company with countries like China, Iraq and North Korea. I suspect it’s because Congress fears possible indictment of GW Bush for his complicity in the treatment and torture of prisoners. In any case, the indictment of Lange (Tony Blair, anyone?) makes the memoirs, already sought after, hot property, indeed.

Terrorism has been a real boon to those in power providing a rationale for obtaining more control over their “subjects,” while providing them with more mechanisms, in the name of security, of course, to remove themselves even further from the electorate in bomb/gas-proof limousines, guards, etc. That is a sub-theme of the book that has a host of relevant meanings for the word “ghost.” (Note that the book has been reissued under the title “Ghost Writer’ which loses much of the impact of the double meanings.)

Some interesting discussion on the relationship between truth, memoirs, ghost writers, and politics. I found it hard to put down, listening while walking the dog, sorting stamps, cleaning, etc. My only complaint was the ending , the justification for which seemed thin. Good read, nevertheless.
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