The Shadow of the Wind

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The Shadow of the Wind
La Sombra Del Viento
TheShadowOfTheWind.jpg
1st US edition
AuthorCarlos Ruiz Zafón
CountrySpain
LanguageSpanish
SeriesCemetery of Forgotten Books
GenreMystery
PublisherPlaneta (Spain)
Penguin Books (USA)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson & Orion Books (UK)
Publication date
2001
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
Pages565
ISBN84-08-05793-6
OCLC68085235
Followed byThe Angel's Game
 
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The Shadow of the Wind
La Sombra Del Viento
TheShadowOfTheWind.jpg
1st US edition
AuthorCarlos Ruiz Zafón
CountrySpain
LanguageSpanish
SeriesCemetery of Forgotten Books
GenreMystery
PublisherPlaneta (Spain)
Penguin Books (USA)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson & Orion Books (UK)
Publication date
2001
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
Pages565
ISBN84-08-05793-6
OCLC68085235
Followed byThe Angel's Game

The Shadow of the Wind (Spanish: La Sombra Del Viento) is a 2001 novel by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and a worldwide bestseller. The book was translated into English in 2004 by Lucia Graves and sold over a million copies in the UK after already achieving success on mainland Europe, topping the Spanish bestseller lists for weeks. It was published in the United States by Penguin Books and in Great Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and by Orion Books. It is believed to have sold 15 million copies worldwide,[1] making it one of the best-selling books of all time.

Ruiz Zafón's follow-up is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, published in Spanish in April 2008 by Planeta. It has been acquired by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and a hardback English edition was published in June 2009. The title is The Angel's Game and it is set in Barcelona during the 1920s and 1930s. It follows a young writer who is approached by a mysterious figure to write a book. The Angel's Game was also translated into English by Lucia Graves.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel, set in post–war Barcelona, concerns a young boy, Daniel Sempere. Just after the war, Daniel's father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of old, forgotten titles lovingly preserved by a select few initiates. According to tradition, everyone initiated to this secret place is allowed to take one book from it and must protect it for life. Daniel selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. That night he takes the book home and reads it, completely engrossed. Daniel then attempts to look for other books by this unknown author but can find none. All he comes across are stories of a strange man – calling himself Laín Coubert, after a character in the book who happens to be the Devil – who has been seeking out Carax's books for decades, buying them all and burning them.

The novel is actually a story within a story. The boy, Daniel Sempere, in his quest to discover Julian's other works, becomes involved in tracing the entire history of Carax. His friend Fermin Romero de Torres, who was imprisoned and tortured in Montjuic Castle for having been involved in an espionage against the Anarchists during the war – himself being a government intelligence agent – helps Daniel in a number of ways, but their probing into the murky past of a number of people who have either been long dead or long forgotten unleashes the dark forces of the murderous Inspector Fumero.

Thus, unravelling a long story that has been buried within the depths of oblivion, Daniel and Fermin come across a love story, the beautiful, yet doomed love story of Julian and Penelope, both of whom seem to having been missing since 1919 – that is, nearly thirty years earlier. Julian, who was the son of the hatter Antoni Fortuny and his wife Sophie Carax (but preferred to use his mother's last name) and Penelope Aldaya, the only daughter of the extremely rich and wealthy Don Ricardo Aldaya and his beautiful and narcissistic American wife, developed an instant love for each other, carried out a clandestine relationship only through casual furtive glances and faint smiles for around four years, after which they decided to elope to Paris, unaware that the shadows of misfortune had been closing upon them ever since they met. The two lovers are doomed to unknown fates just a week before their supposed elopement, which is meticulously planned by Julian's best friend, Miquel Moliner – also the son of a wealthy father, who had earned much during the war including an ill reputation of selling ammunition. It is eventually revealed that Miquel loved Julian more than any brother and finally sacrificed his own life for him, having already abandoned all his wishes and youth towards lost causes of charity and his friend's well-being after his elopement to Paris, nevertheless without Penelope, who never turned up for the rendezvous. Penelope's memories keep burning Julian and this eventually forces him to return to Barcelona, in the mid 1930s, however he encounters the harshest truth about Penelope, who had just been nothing more than a memory for those who knew her, for she had never been seen or heard of again by anyone after 1919. Daniel discovers, from the note Nuria Monfort left for him, that Julian and Penelope are actually half-brother and sister; her father had an affair with his mother and Julian was the result. The worst thing for his to discover is that after he left, Penelope's parents imprisoned her because they were ashamed of her committing incest with Julian, and she was pregnant with his child. Penelope gave birth to a son named David Aldaya, who was stillborn. Penelope died during childbirth, due to her parents ignoring her cries for help, and her body was placed in the family crypt along with her childs. When returning to the Aldaya Mansion, Julian becomes enraged with the news of his love's death along with their child's. He hates every wasted second of his life without Penelope and hates his books all the more. He begins to burn all of his novels and calls himself Lain Coubert.

After finishing reading the book, Daniel marries Beatriz "Bea" Aguilar, whom he has loved for a long time, in 1956. Soon after, Bea gives birth to a son. Daniel names his son Julian Sempere, in honor of Julian Carax. In 1966, Daniel takes Julian to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where The Shadow of the Wind is kept.

Characters[edit]

The Civil War and Franco dictatorship[edit]

The Spanish Civil War forms much of the background for the book, as a still fresh traumatic memory, and there are many extensive flashbacks to that period. The book presents positively the Generalitat – the autonomous Catalan authority which (partially) administered Barcelona during the Civil War and was brutally suppressed after Franco's victory, and whose executed leader Lluís Companys is revered by Catalans as a hero and martyr. Daniel's friend Fermín Romero de Torres, among the book's most sympathetic characters, is mentioned as having been a senior secret agent for the Generalitat and having been horribly tortured and persecuted for it after the fall of Barcelona in 1939.

In contrast, the Anarchist movement FAI – which, among others, had won George Orwell's approval and warm admiration in his classic "Homage to Catalonia" – is here consistently presented in a very negative light. "The Anarchists, the Communists and the Fascists" are repeatedly mentioned as essentially three gangs of murderous thugs of whom there was no essential difference – symbolized by the fact that the psychopathic Fumero continually flirted with all three, ever ready to throw his lot with whoever came on top.

The present time of the book's plot is entirely under the Franco dictatorship. There is the ever-present shadow of the sinister Inspector Fumero – whose acts of torture and murder are, however, presented as deriving from a personal insanity more than from official ideology or policy. The mass extrajudicial executions in the immediate aftermath of Franco's victory are still remembered with a shudder, and in the Barcelona depicted, a person arbitrarily beaten up by police has no legal recourse. Nevertheless, most people live their ordinary lives, much as people do everywhere, and there is no general atmosphere of terror.

In fact, people often regard the regime with contempt rather than fear, and many of the quotations of official propaganda are clearly intended as satire ("A book attributed to a disciple of Darwin, showing that Spaniards are evolved from a more developed type of simian than the French"). Adherents of the regime, such as Beatriz's intended (a military officer) or the vain Professor Velasquez, are presented as ridiculous buffoons. One passage mentions a scrawled graffiti reading "Fascist Dickheads".

It is mentioned that publication of leaflets for the clandestine metal-workers' trade union could lead one to years behind bars. Yet in another place a taxi driver is mentioned as outspokenly proclaiming to casual passengers his Communist sympathies – specifically his admiration for Joseph Stalin and for La Pasionaria – with no evident sign of apprehension.

Absent is any reference to the Franco regime's efforts to suppress the Catalan language, as it did towards other non-Castilian languages throughout Spain, or to that language at all.

In the depiction of the police there is quite literally a Good cop/Bad cop opposition, with the satanic, psychopathic Inspector Fumero contrasted to Officer Palacios, who is revealed towards the end to be quite decent and well-meaning. Following Fumero's death at the book's climactic scene, the clouds seem to disperse and the book moves smoothly towards a happy ending – symbolizing Spain's smooth transition to democracy following Franco's death in 1975.

Critical reception[edit]

In the USA, Entertainment Weekly assigned the book a grade of A, describing the book as "wondrous" and noting that "there are places in which the book might seem a little over-the-top (doomed love, gruesome murders) but for Zafon's masterful, meticulous plotting and extraordinary control over language."[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Irish Times on The Shadow of the Wind: "[...]his novel The Shadow of the Wind has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, writes Arminta Wallace" (13 June 2009)
  2. ^ Review by Rebeca Ascher Walsh

External links[edit]

Reviews