The Shadow of the Wind
First US edition
|Author||Carlos Ruiz Zafón|
|Original title||La sombra del viento|
|Series||Cemetery of Forgotten Books|
Penguin Books (USA)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson & Orion Books (UK)
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|Followed by||The 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 Orion Books. It is believed to have sold 15 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.
Ruiz Zafón's follow-up, The Angel's Game, is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind. It was published in Spanish in April 2008 by Planeta and then acquired by Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Lucia Graves published a hardback English edition in June 2009. The Angel's Game is set in Barcelona during the 1920s and 1930s and follows a young writer who is approached by a mysterious figure to write a book.
The novel, set in Barcelona in the period following the Spanish Civil War, 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 morning 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 and burning them all.
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 been either long dead or long forgotten unleashes the dark forces of the murderous Inspector Fumero.
Thus, unravelling a long story that has been buried in the depths of oblivion, Daniel and Fermin come across a love story, the beautiful yet tragic 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 wealthy Don Ricardo Aldaya and his beautiful, narcissistic American wife, developed an instant love for each other and lived 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 in on them ever since they had 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 a bad reputation for 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 his desires and his youth for causes of charity and his friend's well-being after his elopement to Paris -- although without Penelope, who never turned up for the rendezvous. Penelope's memory keeps burning in Julian's heart, and this eventually forces him to return to Barcelona (in the mid 1930s); however he encounters the harsh truth about Penelope, nothing more than a memory to those who knew her since 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 he learns is that after Julian left, Penelope's parents imprisoned her because they were ashamed of her committing incest with him and she was pregnant with his child. Penelope gave birth to a son named David Aldaya, who was stillborn. Penelope died in childbirth, due to her parents' ignoring her cries for help, and her body was placed in the family crypt along with her child's. When returning to the Aldaya Mansion, Julian is enraged and embittered by 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.
- Daniel Sempere – The main character of the story. Son of a bookshop owner. After visiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and picking out The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax, Daniel learns that he should treasure this book because a mysterious figure has been searching for all of Carax's books and subsequently burning them. After reading the book, Daniel becomes obsessed with its elusive author. What he doesn't realize is that there's more to the story than he could ever dream. In the climax, he marries Beatriz and has a son Julian, named after Julian Carax.
- Tomás Aguilar – Best friend of Daniel Sempere. Tough and strong, very protective of his sister Bea, and also a rather intelligent inventor. Quiet and shy.
- Fermín Romero de Torres – Sidekick, friend, and mentor of Daniel Sempere. After some hard times and several years on the streets, he is assisted by Daniel and Daniel's father, who give him an apartment and a permanent job at the bookshop.
- Beatriz Aguilar – Love interest of Daniel Sempere and sister of Tomás. Bea, who is a very pretty young woman, is still in school. It is due to her that Daniel and Tomás became friends in the first place because, when the two were schoolboys, Daniel made a joke about Bea that made Tomás start a fight with him. After the blood dried, they became the best of friends. Bea's father and brother are very protective of her, and she has been for several years engaged to marry an army officer, a staunch upholder of the Franco dictatorship. In the climax, she marries Daniel and becomes the mother of Julian Sempere.
- Don Gustavo Barcelo – Friend of Daniel and his father. An older man who is a book lover and buyer. He originally offers to buy "The Shadow of the Wind" from Daniel, who declines his offer. He is also a father figure to his niece Clara.
- Clara Barceló – Niece of the wealthy Don Gustavo Barceló, very beautiful, yet blind. For several years, the young Daniel comes to her uncle's house to sit and read with her. He develops a schoolboy crush on her even though she is ten years his senior, but tries to forget her once he discovers her in a compromising position with her piano instructor.
- Julián Carax – The author of "The Shadow of the Wind". Daniel desperately seeks to find out the truth about this mysterious man: the reasons for his journeys, the truth about his childhood, and the explanation for why his books are all being destroyed. Julián falls in love with Penelope at first sight. Their love affair, however, has been doomed since the beginning, as they learn that they are half-brother and sister. After being caught by her parents making love to Penelope, he flees to Paris. After the deaths of Penelope and their son, David, he writes a series of books and eventually disappears without a trace.
- Francisco Javier Fumero – The main antagonist. An odd schoolboy friend of Julián Carax who grows up to be a corrupt and murderous police inspector.
- Miquel Moliner – A schoolboy friend of Julián Carax, fun-loving and loyal. So much so, in fact, that he sacrifices his own life for Julián's.
- Father Fernando Ramos – A schoolboy friend of Julián Carax who later becomes a priest at their old school. He assists Daniel in his quest for the truth about Julián.
- Jorge Aldaya – A schoolboy friend of Julián Carax, sometimes rather moody, very wealthy. He is Penelope's older brother, and also Julian's half-brother by their father. He dies in Paris in 1936.
- Penélope Aldaya – An ethereal beauty, devoid of anything worldly, she is described as an angel of light. She and Julian fall in love with each other at first sight. It is as if destiny had planned their doomed love, as it is revealed they are half-brother and sister. After she is caught in a tryst with Julian in her governess, Jacinta's, room, her parents imprison her and discover she is pregnant with Julian's child. She dies after giving birth to David, the son of her and Julian.
- Jacinta Coronado – The devoted former governess of Penélope Aldaya, now living in a retirement home. She helps Daniel in his quest.
- Nuria Monfort – An intelligent 'femme fatale' who worked at the publishing house where Julián's books were published. She also conducted an affair with Julián while he lived in Paris, and although she falls deeply in love with him he does not reciprocate. Daniel goes to visit her for more information about Julián but later realizes that she fed him lies to protect Julián. She is also the daughter of Mr. Monfort, who holds the keys to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where Daniel found "The Shadow of the Wind". She marries Miquel Moliner, Julian's childhood friend.
Civil War and Franco dictatorship
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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 somehow autonomous Catalan authority that (partially) administered Barcelona during the Civil War and was 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 between whom there was no essential difference – symbolized by the fact that the psychopathic Fumero continually flirted with all three, ever ready to throw in 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 cost one 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.
In the depiction of the police there is quite literally a Good cop/Bad cop opposition, with the satanic, psychopathic Inspector Fumero contrasted with 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.
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." In contrast, Publishers Weekly said "Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors" and "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."
- 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)
- Review by Rebeca Ascher Walsh
- Publishers Weekly review of April 2004.
- Places in the book marked out both on the Barcelona city map and as a Google Earth placemarks file (in English)
- Website about The Shadow of the Wind (in Spanish)
- Author's English Website
- Author's Spanish Website
- The Economist (Subscription), April 1, 2004.
- The Shadow of the Wind Book Review by Barcelona Life
- New York Times Review: Eder, Richard. In the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. New York Times, Arts Section, April 24, 2004.