Claudio was born in Chile in 1966, grew up in The Netherlands and in The United States, and currently lives in Amsterdam. He speaks Spanish and Dutch, but his writing language is English. He is an all-round creative, being also a translator, producer and documentary filmmaker. His debut novel, The Hand of Yemanja, came out in 2013.

To Catch a Ghost

It is in bed that I like to do most of my reading. I see it as my final deed of every day, and one to which the outcome is almost always rest and dreams. Almost.

To let myself get taken into someone else’s world this way just helps to clear my head. For some it is a hot shower and for some a glass of warm milk. Some times, when it is a particularly good book I am reading, the words will echo in my head long after I have turned off the light. I then have to force myself to wake up for a moment and mentally repeat the motion with the light switch before I am finally able to depart for the night.

I have come to see this as my guard against insomnia, a close to foolproof method I have relied on since as early as I can remember, and one of the few times this little ritual has failed me was also when I knew the time had come to write a book of my own.

I had just finished chewing through the last three pages of The Colossus of Maroussi, one of Henry Miller’s masterpieces and the most beautiful book I have ever read. Vividly painted images of sunny Greece bounce around inside my head. Somewhere around the isle of Crete, I realize I am more awake now than I was when I crawled between the crispy sheets of the bed twenty minutes ago. By now I am seriously fearing that this night may well be one of the – several visits to the bathroom and who-knows how may provisional cigarettes smoked at the kitchen window before I catch the needed Z-s – kind.

I get out of bed and prance around the apartment. I run my fingers over the stack of mail piled neatly on the corner of the desk and make my way to the book cabinet in the living room. I turn on some lights and lower my reading glasses to the top of my nose to re-examine the titles on the backs of the books. I scratch an undefined itch on my backside and I cringe at the idea that I may actually see daylight soon.

It is then that I realize there is nothing new here for me to read, or nothing I feel like committing to for a second time anyway. I realize it is not just any reading that will be my key to sleep tonight; I am looking for something specific. I don’t know what this book is about, how long it is, or even if it has been written at all. Still, it is as though I can almost hum the words and tap my foot to the rhythm of it; a ghost yelling into a deaf ear from some parallel world – a ghost without a name or title. It does not yet exist.

I let these thoughts sink in, and then, in one single movement, I switch on the computer and open a blank document. I lower myself into the chair in front of it. I hover my hands over the keyboard, as though waiting to catch some object that is about to jump out of it. And then it does jump out. Instead of a catching motion, my fingers begin to gallop over the keys in perfect time with the rhythm that had nestled in my feet just moments earlier. In what sounds like a drum roll, I trap the ghost on the screen inside the title of my book to be: The Hand of Yemanja.