The International Fiction Book Club met on the evening of July 18th to discuss The Shadow of the Wind by the Spanish author, Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The temperature outside was 105 but inside the Blum House it was a cool 77. There were a few regular participants absent because of vacations and unknown reasons. Those in attendance, however, were eager to chat about this marvelous novel. We came away from the discussion liking the book even more than we did while reading it.
In an interview with the BBC’s World Book Club, the author was asked if he had any plans to turn the book into a movie. “Over my dead body” was his answer. He further elaborated, “the best film version that you’re ever going to see of The Shadow of the Wind is playing in the theater of your mind in Dolby stereo when you’re reading”. Ruiz Zafón feels he owes it to the readers to preserve the book as it is and not sell it as a piece of merchandise that will be turned into “a piece of crap” by the Hollywood film industry. It is no mere coincidence that the story of this novel revolves around books, their preservation and the recovery of memory from the ashes of civil war.
Their are two time frames, two love stories, mysteries, gothic overtones, coming of age dramas and detective style intrigues all set against the backdrop of the Franco dictatorship. The book opens in 1945. The proprietor of a bookshop has decided it was time to take his son to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It is a depository of rare books and each visitor is asked to adopt one book from the labyrinth of shelves and to promise to keep the book alive. Daniel, the son, picks a book by the author, Julian Carax, entitled “The Shadow of the Wind”. He is so inspired by the book that he becomes possessed by its author whose life in Barcelona and Paris is gradually revealed in the course of the novel through the use of flashbacks and detective work by Daniel and his tragic, yet picaresque, sidekick Fermin. As Daniel engages further into the life of Carax, his life events mirror those of the mysterious man whose books are being systemically burned by a character who appears to have emerged from the pages of the novel Daniel has promised to keep alive.
The horrors of the Spanish Civil War appear through the lives of the secondary characters, Fermin, who has been turned into a homeless beggar by his defeated status, and the opportunistic, ruthless devil Fumero, who switched sides during the War, depending on which side was winning, but ended up on the side of the Fascists. His quest to extract revenge upon those who humiliated him at school knows no bounds. Ruiz Zafón brilliantly weaves a tale of suspense that is never hard to follow but which always serves to both reveal clues to solving a mystery while at the same time creating a new dilemma. that turns in upon itself. A tour de force of multi-genre dimensions. On page 428, Nuria Monfort is writing to Daniel to try and explain her love affair with Carax and explains, “Nothing feeds forgetfulness better than war”. Through the penetration of the various levels of this book we witness the painful reflection and re-emerging of the memory of a guilt ridden Barcelona.
We next meet at The Blum House at 6:30 p.m. on August 15th to discuss, A Star Called Henry by the Irish author, Roddy Doyle. You may pick up a copy of the book at the front desk of the library. All are welcome.
Posted by Jim Krapf, Library Clerk