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Shadow of the Wind (Ruiz Zafon)

The Shadow of the Wind 
Carlos Ruiz Zafron, Lucia Graves (trans.), 2001
Penguin Group USA
496 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780143034902

Summary 
Barcelona, 1945—A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax.

When the boy searches for Carax's other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written.

Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author's identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio 
Birth—September 25, 1964 
Where—Barcelona, Spain
Awards—Edebe Children's Literary Award, Best Novel, 1993
Currently—lives in Barcelona and Los Angeles, California, USA


Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a Spanish novelist. His first novel, El Príncipe de la Niebla (The Prince of Mist, 1993), earned the Edebe literary prize for young adult fiction. He is also the author of three more young adult novels, El Palacio de la Medianoche (1994), Las Luces de Septiembre (1995) and Marina (1999). The English version of El Príncipe de la Niebla was published in 2010.

In 2001 he published the novel La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind), his first "adult" novel, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. Since its publication, La Sombra del Viento has garnered critical acclaim around the world and has won many international awards. His next novel, El Juego del Angel, was published in April 2008. The English edition, The Angel's Game, is translated by Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves. It is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, also set in Barcelona, but during the 1920s and 1930s. It follows (and is narrated by) David Martin, a young writer who is approached by a mysterious figure to write a book. Ruiz Zafon intends it to be included in a four book series along with The Shadow of the Wind. The Third book in the cycle, El Prisionero del Cielo, appeared in 2011, and was published in English in 2012 as The Prisoner of Heaven.

Ruiz Zafon's works have been published in 45 countries and have been translated into more than 50 different languages. According to these figures, Ruiz Zafon is the most successful contemporary Spanish writer (along with Javier Sierra and Juan Gomez-Jurado). Influences on Ruiz Zafon's work have included 19th century classics, crime fiction, noir authors and contemporary writers.

Apart from books, another large influence comes in the form of films and screenwriting. He says in interviews that he finds it easier to visualize scenes in his books in a cinematic way, which lends itself to the lush worlds and curious characters he creates. (From Wikipedia.)

Extras
From a 2005 Barnes & Noble interview:

• In my tender youth I worked as a musician (composer, arranger and keyboard player/synthesizer programmer, record producer, etc.) and I've also labored for seven long years in the advertising jungle as a cynical mercenary, first as a copywriter, then a creative director (whatever that means) and also producing/directing TV commercials and polluting the world with artifacts glorifying Visa, Audi, Sony, Volkswagen, American Express, and many other evil entities. In 1992, when the lease on my soul was about to expire, I quit to become what I always wanted to do, be a full-time writer. Since then, I've published five novels and also have worked occasionally as a screenwriter.

• I am a curious creature and put my finger in as many cakes as I can: history, film, technology, etc. I'm also a freak for urban history, particularly Barcelona, Paris and New York. I know more weird stuff about 19th-century Manhattan than is probably healthy.

• There are two things that I cannot live without: music and books. Caffeine isn't dignified enough to qualify.

When asked what authors most influenced his career as a writer, here is his response:

Charles Dickens and all of the 19th-century giants. (From Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews 
The melodrama and complications of Shadow, expertly translated by Lucia Graves, can approach excess, though it's a pleasurable and exceedingly well-managed excess. We are taken on a wild ride—for a ride, we may occasionally feel—that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches.
Richard Eder - The New York Times


Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should.
Michael Dirda - The Washington Post


A thriller, a historical novel and a comedy of manners, but above all, the story of a tragic love...with great narrative skill, the author interweaves his plots and enigmas, like a set of Russian dolls in an unforgettable story about the secrets of the heart and the enchantment of books, maintaining the suspense right to the very last page.
La Vanguardia


As magnetic as The Dumas Club, as unsettling as The Mystery of the Haunted Crypt­ and with a plot as complex and well rounded as The Name of The Rose — to be recommended one hundred percent.
La Razon


I was enthralled by Zafon's book and it gave me many hours of great delight. Not only because the story is set in a book shop, not only because it is about the search and the hunt for books and there is a library of forgotten books to be discovered, but because The Shadow of the Wind is suspenseful like a thriller, poetic like a love story, sometimes mysterious like its title, and because it describes the characters and the storyline so wonderfully that the reader wants to be a part of it. A paean to reading and to the love of books.
Westdeutscher Rundfunk


Ruiz Zafon's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Lain Coubert—the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barcelo; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermin Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermin are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafon strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's dandruff"; servants obey orders with "the efficiency and submissiveness of a body of well-trained insects"). Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel.
Publishers Weekly


This complex, Byzantine, at times longwinded work, which spent more than 60 weeks on Spain's best sellers list, throws together mystery, romance, and crime into one big mix like an olla podrida. Set in Franco's Spain, it revolves around the remarkably sophisticated 18-year-old Daniel Sempere. After visiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which recalls Borges's labyrinthine Library of Babel, he decides to entrust to his care a tome by Julian Carax called The Shadow of the Wind. He soon discovers not only that he probably has the last extant copy of this work but that someone wants desperately to eradicate all the author's books and will resort to any means necessary, including murder. Daniel meets a wide range of well-developed yet eccentric characters as he wanders throughout Barcelona attempting to ascertain the truth. Zafon's fifth novel follows a traditional narrative; what is outstanding is the metaphysical concept of books that assume a life of their own as the author subtly plays with intertextual references (e.g., a pair of cockatoos named Ortega and Gasset make cameo appearances). Even the plot and characters of Carax's fictitious work are interwoven into this meticulously crafted mosaic. Recommended primarily for public libraries and especially for readers who lead double lives as bibliophiles. —Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH
Library Journal


The histories of a mysterious book and its enigmatic author are painstakingly disentangled in this yeasty Dickensian romance: a first novel by a Spanish novelist now living in the US. We meet its engaging narrator Daniel Sempere in 1945, when he's an 11-year-old boy brought by his father, a Barcelona rare-book dealer, to a secret library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Enthralled, Daniel "chooses" an obscure novel, The Shadow of the Wind, a complex quest tale whose author, Julian Carax, reputedly fled Spain at the outbreak of its Civil War, and later died in Paris. Carax and his book obsess Daniel for a decade, as he grows to manhood, falls in and out of fascination, if not love with three beguiling women, and comes ever closer to understanding who Carax was and how he was connected to the family of tyrannical Don Ricardo Aldaya—and why a sinister, "faceless" stranger who identifies himself as Carax's fictional creation ("demonic") "Lain Coubert" has seemingly "got out of the pages of a book so that he could burn it." Daniel's investigations are aided, and sometimes impeded, by a lively gallery of vividly evoked supporting characters. Prominent among them are secretive translator Nuria Monfort (who knows more about Carax's Paris years than she initially reveals); Aldaya family maid Jacinta Coronada, consigned to a lunatic asylum to conceal what she knows; Daniel's ebullient Sancho Panza Fermin Romero de Torres, a wily vagrant working as "bibliographic detective" in the Semperes' bookstore; and vengeful police inspector Fumero, a Javert-like stalker whose refusal to believe Carax is dead precipitates the climax—at which Daniel realizes he's much more than just a reader of Carax's intricate, sorrowful story. The Shadow of the Wind will keep you up nights—and it'll be time well spent. Absolutely marvelous.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions 
1. Julián Carax's and Daniel's lives follow very similar trajectories. Yet one ends in tragedy, the other in happiness. What similarities are there between the paths they take? What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?

2. Nuria Monfort tells Daniel, "Julián once wrote that coincidences are the scars of fate. There are no coincidences, Daniel. We are the puppets of our unconscious." What does that mean? What does she refer to in her own experience and in Julián's life?

3. Nuria Monfort's dying words, meant for Julián, are, "There are worse prisons than words." What does she mean by this? What is she referring to?

4. There are many devil figures in the story-Carax's Laín Coubert, Jacinta's Zacarias, Fermín's Fumero. How does evil manifest itself in each devil figure? What are the characteristics of the villains/devils?

5. Discuss the title of the novel. What is "The Shadow of the Wind"? Where does Zafón refer to it and what does he use the image to illustrate?

6. Zafón's female characters are often enigmatic, otherworldly angels full of power and mystery. Clara the blind white goddess ultimately becomes a fallen angel; Carax credits sweet Bea with saving his and Daniel's lives; Daniel's mother is actually an angel whose death renders her so ephemeral that Daniel can't even remember her face. Do you think Zafón paints his female characters differently than his male characters? What do the women represent in Daniel's life? What might the Freud loving Miquel Moliner say about Daniel's relationships with women?

7. Daniel says of The Shadow of the Wind, "As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within" (p. 7). Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind unfolds much the same way, with many characters contributing fragments of their own stories in the first person point of view. What does Zafón illustrate with this method of storytelling? What do the individual mini-autobiographies contribute to the tale?

8. The evil Fumero is the only son of a ridiculed father and a superficial, status-seeking mother. The troubled Julián is the bastard son of a love-starved musical mother and an amorous, amoral businessman, though he was raised by a cuckolded hatmaker. Do you think their personalities are products of nature or nurture? How are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon each of the characters?
(Questions from the publisher.)

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