Tsundoku. A Japanese word for buying books and putting them along with a pile of other unread books. I already have about a two-year supply of paperbacks casually stacked around my room – a stockpile of beckoning promises, each story an invitation to a fictional world or a vast universe that I long to get lost in. Yet, I never picked one in months and instead took shelter under The Shadow of the Wind – a fictional narrative recommended by a writer friend. It took me over two moons to complete amidst all the long pauses and trying to solve my own problems. But take it not as a brag – I could’ve devoured it in three days, given the daily schedule that I have. But as the good old excuse says, life happened!
The Shadow of the Wind’s atmosphere is a mysterious air of secrets. The characters, as they come out, speak of their own enigmas: there is Daniel’s father and the sadness that followed him for years after the loss of his wife; Fermin, the optimist intellectual who harbors a dark past; Nuria Monfort, the old femme fatale who vaguely reminds me of Susan Sontag; and of course, Lain Coubert, the cunning, smokey villain who reeks of book pages and dead memories. Through the young protagonist, Daniel Sempere, their secrets are unveiled.
It’s Barcelona once more. If I recall it correctly, Zafon is my second Spanish author, next to Ildefonso Falcones and his Santa Maria del Mar. Oddly enough, this novel reminds me a bit of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Quote from The Shadow of the Wind:
“I could tell you, it’s his heart, but what is really killing him is loneliness. Memories are worse than bullets.”
Maybe it was because of the brief and long hiatuses that I failed to fully appreciate the tale. Still, it was remarkable nonetheless – fast-paced with very witty dialogues and quotable lines. Truth is inserted in between sentences and paragraphs, integrating themselves with the fictional undoing of the genius that is Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I cracked up when he made Father Fernando Ramos substitute some biblical gospel with a Pablo Neruda love poem.
I should say, though, that it was a bit clicheic and predictable. Life was too harsh for Julian while it was slightly more favorable for Daniel, despite him not experiencing the loving accompaniment of his mother. It seemed like poor Julian was forced to live in Murphy’s dimension. Everything went wrong until he picked up hope by living through another person’s dreams. I find that poetically sad. The end was beautiful and would surely appeal to happy-ending-aficionados, but I would have liked it better if Julian’s plight was left to an open-ended conclusion. I guess what the author did was too strained but oh well – maybe life gets really good sometimes. For some people.
One fiction down after two months. I’ll be off to essays. Trying Thoreau! Finally.