Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Shadow of The Wind [La Sombra del Viento] (2004)

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Shadow of The Wind [La Sombra del Viento] (2004)

(The first book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series)

My rating 10/10

I was enthralled from the first page but who would not be when the book involved a 'cemetery of lost books'. The further I got into it the more the style (it is brilliantly translated by Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves), the mystery and the romance.
Spain is not a country and Barcelona not a city that I would normally pick up a book about.  1945, the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, is not a period I would normally read about.  But Zafon says “The city is a sorceress, you know, Daniel? It gets under your skin and steals your soul without you knowing it…”  This book is like that.  Unputdownable, eminently quotable, and with language which the Observer rightly describes as purring along.

To quote from Fantastic Fiction
A stunning literary thriller in the tradition of Umberto Eco. The discovery of a forgotten book leads to a hunt for an elusive author who may or may not still be alive...
Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out 'La Sombra del Viento' by Julian Carax. But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax's work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón was born in Barcelona in 1964. He won the Premio Edebe for his first novel, Prince of the Mists and La Sombra del Viento is a finalist for the Premio Lara. He lives in Los Angeles and works as a scriptwriter.

A couple of my favourite quotations

'This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend. Now they only have us, Daniel. Do you think you'll be able to keep such a secret?' My gaze was lost in the immensity of the place and its sorcery of light. I nodded, and my father smiled.

As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.

Women have an infallible instinct for knowing when a man has fallen madly in love with them, especially when the male in question is both young and a complete dunce. I fulfilled all the requirements
'What sort of women do you like, Daniel?'
'I don't know much about them, honestly.' '
'Nobody knows much about women, not even Freud, not even women themselves. But it's like electricity: you don't have to know how it works to get a shock.'

And a few odd phrases –
….her eyes poisoned with tears….
….the day was turning out to be longer than The Brothers Karamazov….
….asked herself whether that dreamy peace that filled her days, that absence of consciousness, was what some people called happiness….
….those who really love, love in silence, with deeds and not with words….
….who had built up his fortune from nothing, by dint of great effort and sacrifices, although mostly other people's….
….Nothing feeds forgetfulness better than war….

1 comment:

  1. Just read the angel's game and I enjoyed it even more than the shadow of the wind.


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