Buy This Book: Carlos Ruiz Zafon's "The Shadow of the Wind" captures the soul of a book

My daughter Jerusha says she knew I was going to get weepy over this passage from The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and I do every time I return to it.
"This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend."
I'm printing it out right now to post on my Wall of Need to Know.

A huge bestseller in Spain, The Shadow of the Wind was translated and published in the US several years ago. It's kind of Gothic, kind of literary, with a delicious dollop of magical realism. The young protagonist, Daniel Sempere, is entrusted with the safekeeping of a rare book and soon becomes embroiled in the mysterious circumstances surrounding the author's death. The body of writer Julian Carax was dumped in an alley in 1936, and now someone is methodically tracking down and burning every remaining copy of his novel. The cast of rich characters, wry dialogue, and labyrinth of plot twists defy synopsis, but the book is about books and storytelling more than anything else. The writing is unabashed, lush, over the top. It made me simultaneously salute the translator and wish I could read Spanish so I could see the original.

Most extraordinary was the way I started the book thinking he wrote this book for writers and finished it thinking he wrote this book for me.


Pamala Knight said…
Thank you for so eloquently expressing my thoughts on Ruiz Zafon's magnificent novel. I read it several years ago and fell in love. The highlighted passage was beautiful then and with all of the changes surrounding the publishing industry, it's oddly prescient as well as comforting.
Wow. That's such a beautiful, haunting passage. And as Pamala puts it, oddly prescient...

Though I've know a few novelists who would like to track down and destroy every last copy of their first, embarrassing efforts. :)

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