One day in 1981 a young woman found herself travelling from her Scottish home to London to meet a publisher. So far so predictable perhaps. She had read Russian at university and had recently translated the memoirs of the painter Leonid Pasternak, father of the more famous Boris. There was nothing predictable about this meeting, however, and the man waiting for her at the door of his Mayfair flat was no ordinary publisher. This is how she describes him.
So strange and exotic is he that he could be a rare tropical bird that you might never come face to face with, even in a lifetime spent in the rain forest. The plumage is a wonder to behold: a large sapphire in the lapel of a bold striped suit, a vivid silk tie so bright that it dazzles, and when he flaps his wings the lining of his jacket glints and glistens like a prism. He takes my hand and lays it on the silk lining. You want to touch? Go on, touch! It’s best Chinese silk. I have only the best.
Over the next twenty years, she and ‘Tiger’, as she calls this unnamed (but easily identifiable) publisher, would become inextricably intertwined. He would become her financial saviour and she would become his voice, expressing on paper the fantasies he was unable to express for himself, massaging his ego and turning him into the literary lion he longed to be. This is the story she tells in Ghosting. For a while I inhabited the strange, liminal world of the ghost-writer myself and a friend gave a copy to me as a present when it was first published in 2004. I thought it one of the cleverest, most original and entertaining memoirs I’d ever read. Reading it again years later I still do.
It all started like this. Leonid Pasternak had done paintings of Tiger’s Palestinian homeland and Tiger was desperate to buy them. When he made contact with Jennie Erdal, translator of the painter’s memoirs, she told him she kne
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