“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind
A song might tickle a memory or define your worldview. Culture in its non-utilitarian presence provides purpose to our desultory existence. Books give me an opportunity to explore the recesses of my mind that are yet uninitiated.
For a classified bibliomaniac like me, books about books are particularly fascinating. Carlos Ruiz Zafon in The Shadow of the Wind weaves a tangled thread of mystery, good old-fashioned narrative and enchanted trickery to take us on a ride through the life of Daniel Sempere and his act of choosing a book that leads to dangerous consequences.
Daniel is worryingly grieving for his dead mother and his concerned bookseller father takes him to the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books”.
According to the tradition the visitor must adopt a book to make sure it stays alive for life. Daniel’s choice leads him on a journey of layering labyrinths where he meets a devil who smells of burning paper, a proper villain in Fumero and in the center of a tragic yet mysterious love story, at this point we cannot stop reading until we have devoured the book.
Along the way Daniel will fall in love, discover a modern Sancho Paz in Fermin (one time Republican agent reduced to begging), and solve a mystery. Zafon weaves seamlessly through early 20th century Barcelona making it come alive for his readers.
Frequently brilliant, the book is a fable; it is beautifully crafted, as a labor of love and immensely quotable through its delectable sentences. It is a grand act of story telling, at times excessive yet profoundly charming.
I read this book some years ago and keep revisiting it every year. It continues to teach me the impact of storytelling and stories can change lives. Zafon has made me read more stories.
Someone once said, a good story beats a great spreadsheet, this book reinforces that belief.