Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Carlos Ruiz Zafón in 2008
Carlos Ruiz Zafón in 2008
Born(1964-09-25)25 September 1964
Barcelona, Spain
Died19 June 2020(2020-06-19) (aged 55)
Los Angeles, California, United States
LanguageSpanish & English

Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkaɾlos rwiθ θaˈfon]; 25 September 1964 – 19 June 2020) was a Spanish novelist known for his 2001 novel La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind).[1] The novel sold 15 million copies and was winner of numerous awards; it was included in the list of the one hundred best books in Spanish in the last twenty-five years, made in 2007 by eighty-one Latin American and Spanish writers and critics.[2]


Ruiz Zafón was born in Barcelona. His grandparents had worked in a factory and his father sold insurance. Ruiz Zafón began his working life in advertising.[3] In the 1990s he moved to Los Angeles where he worked briefly in screen writing. He was fluent in English.[4]

Ruiz Zafón died of colorectal cancer in Los Angeles[5][6] on 19 June 2020.

Literary career[edit]

Ruiz Zafón's first novel, El príncipe de la niebla 1993 (The Prince of Mist, published in English in 2010), earned the Edebé literary prize for young adult fiction. He was also the author of three additional young adult novels, El palacio de la medianoche (1994), Las luces de septiembre (1995) and Marina (1999).

In 2001 he published his first adult novel La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind, Lucia Graves' English translation published in 2004), a Gothic mystery that involves Daniel Sempere's quest to track down the man responsible for destroying every book written by author Julian Carax. The novel has sold millions of copies worldwide, with more than a million copies sold in the UK. La sombra del viento garnered critical acclaim around the world.[7]

Ruiz Zafón's next novel, El juego del ángel, was published in April 2008. The English edition, The Angel's Game, was also translated by Lucia 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 Martín, a young writer who is approached by a mysterious figure to write a book. Ruiz Zafón intended it to be included in a four-book series along with The Shadow of the Wind.[8]

The next book in the cycle, El prisionero del cielo, appeared in 2011. It returns to The Shadow of the Wind's Daniel Sempere and his travel back to the 1940s to resolve a buried secret. The novel was published in English in July 2012 as The Prisoner of Heaven.[9]

The Labyrinth of Spirits (original title: El laberinto de los espíritus) is the fourth and final book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The novel was initially released on 17 November 2016 in Spain and Latin America by Spanish publisher Planeta. HarperCollins published the English translation by Lucia Graves, which was released on 18 September 2018.

Ruiz Zafón's works have been published in more than 45 countries and have been translated into more than 50 languages.[10] According to these figures, he is the most widely published contemporary Spanish writer, followed by Javier Sierra, whose works have been published in 42 countries, and Juan Gómez-Jurado, whose works have been published in 41 countries.[citation needed]


Influences on Ruiz Zafón's work have included 19th century classics, crime fiction,[11] noir authors, and contemporary writers.

Apart from books, another large influence came in the form of films and screenwriting. He said in interviews that he found it easier to visualize scenes in his books in a cinematic way, which lends itself to the lush worlds and curious characters he created.[8]


Young adult[edit]

  • El príncipe de la niebla (1993), translated as The Prince of Mist (2010)
  • El palacio de la medianoche (1994), translated as The Midnight Palace (2011)
  • Las luces de septiembre (1995), translated as The Watcher in the Shadows (2013)[12]
  • Marina (1999), translated as Marina (2013)


El cementerio de los libros olvidados series (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books)[13][14]

Carlos Ruiz Zafón talks about The Angel's Game on Bookbits radio.

Short stories[edit]

  • "Rosa de fuego", 2012 ("The Rose of Fire")
  • "Two-Minute Apocalypse", (2015)[15]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Shadow of the Wind author dies at 55". BBC News. 2020-06-19. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  2. ^ "«La sombra del viento», el libro maldito que catapultó a Ruiz Zafón al éxito". Diario ABC (in Spanish). 2020-06-19. Retrieved 2023-06-26.
  3. ^ Roig-Franzia, Manuel (2016-10-14). "The bestselling literary sensation you may struggle to name". Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  4. ^ Sara J. Brenneis, 2008. Dictatorship Noir: post-war Spanish history in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s La sombra del viento. Romance Studies 26 (1): 61-73.
  5. ^ "Carlos Ruiz Zafón fallece en Los Ángeles a los 55 años". La Vanguardia. 19 June 2020.
  6. ^ Minder, Raphael (20 June 2020). "Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Author of 'The Shadow of the Wind,' Dies at 55". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Dubois, Grégory (2018). "Le spectre fantastique de l'Histoire dans L'ombre du vent de Carlos Ruiz Zafón" (PDF). Merveilleux, Miraculeux, Fabuleux. 1 (23): 68–82.
  8. ^ a b Porter, Steve (October 2008). "Books hold no passports – Carlos Ruiz Zafon talks to Three Monkeys Online". TMO Magazine.
  9. ^ "The Prisoner of Heaven (El cementerio de los libros olvidados #3)". Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  10. ^ "about the author" in The Prisoner of Heaven, Orion edition (2012)
  11. ^ Infloox Inc. "Crime fiction → Carlos Ruiz Zafón – infloox". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  12. ^ London: Orion. ISBN 978-1-4440-0165-5
  13. ^ 2016-02-25
  14. ^ Dubois, Grégory (February 2018). "El olvido imposible : memoria y transmisión en Noticias felices en aviones de papel de Juan Marsé y 'El Cementerio de los Libros Olvidados' de Carlos Ruiz Zafón" [The Impossible Oblivion: Memory and Transmission in Noticias felices en aviones de papel by Juan Marsé and 'The Cemetery of Forgotten Books' by Carlos Ruiz Zafón]. Acta Iassyensia Comparationis (in Spanish) (22): 91–100.
  15. ^ "Carlos Ruiz Zafón". Author Series. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  16. ^ Ruiz Zafón e Iñigo Aranbarri, premios Euskadi de Plata, El País, 30.04.2008; acceso 29.09.2011

External links[edit]