The Shadow of the Wind

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Barcelona, 1945 - Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes...
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Barcelona, 1945 - Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a book from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the book he selects, a novel called The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Before Daniel knows it, his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness, and doomed love, and before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In the postwar calm of 1945 Barcelona, ten-year-old Daniel Sempere awakes from a nightmare and, to his horror, realizes that he can no longer remember the face of his deceased mother. In an effort to divert his son's attention from this sharply felt fear and loss, his father, a rare-book dealer, first swears Daniel to secrecy, then takes him to a clandestine library where Daniel is allowed to select a single book.

Entranced, Daniel picks a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, written by the enigmatic Julián Carax, who is rumored to have fled Spain under murky circumstances, and later died. As Daniel begins to search for other works by his favorite new author, he discovers that they have all been destroyed -- torched by a mysterious stranger obsessed with obliterating Carax's literary legacy from the face of the earth.

Though Daniel's copy of Carax's novel is the last in existence, he's unwilling to part with it at any price and dedicates himself to revealing the truth about Carax. Aided in his quest by the good-humored Fermín Romero de Torres, a former beggar whose "difficult life-lessons" enable him to keep a step ahead of trouble, Daniel begins to uncover a tale of murder, madness, and secrets that might best be forgotten. And as he wends his way through Barcelona society, both high and low, he comes to realize that his own part in The Shadow of the Wind is more than that of a mere reader.

Also available en español! (Summer 2004 Selection)

The New York Times
The melodrama and complications of Shadow, expertly translated by Lucia Graves, can approach excess, though it's a pleasurable and exceedingly well-managed excess. We are taken on a wild ride -- for a ride, we may occasionally feel -- that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches. — Richard Eder
The Washington Post
… anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should. — Michael Dirda
El Pais
The publishing phenomenon of the last year and a half.
La Vanguardia
Zafonmania... A thriller, a historical novel and a comedy of manners, but above all, the story of a tragic love...with great narrative skill, the author interweaves his plots and enigmas, like a set of Russian dolls in an unforgettable story about the secrets of the heart and the enchantment of books, maintaining the suspense right to the very last page.
La Razon
As magnetic as The Dumas Club, as unsettling as The Mystery of the Haunted Crypt­ and with a plot as complex and well rounded as The Name of The Rose-to be recommended one hundred percent.
Suddeutsche Zeitung
I was enthralled by Zafon's book and it gave me many hours of great delight. Not only because the story is set in a book shop, not only because it is about the search and the hunt for books and there is a library of forgotten books to be discovered, but because The Shadow of the Wind is suspenseful like a thriller, poetic like a love story, sometimes mysterious like its title, and because it describes the characters and the storyline so wonderfully that the reader wants to be a part of it. A paean to reading and to the love of books.
Westdeutscher Rundfunk
What a magnificent labyrinth a book can be... the Spanish author keeps us at it with his intense narrative style and delivers to the full what one would call a wonderfully good read... Already one talks of Zafonmania. Now it is your turn.
Publishers Weekly
Ruiz Zafon's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Juli n Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Lain Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barcelo; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermin Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermin are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafon strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's dandruff"; servants obey orders with "the efficiency and submissiveness of a body of well-trained insects"). Yet the colorful cast of characters, 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. (Apr. 12) Forecast: Appealing packaging (a weathered, antique-look jacket), prepublication bookseller events and an eight-city author tour should give this an early boost, though momentum may flag down the stretch. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This complex, Byzantine, at times longwinded work, which spent more than 60 weeks on Spain's best sellers list, throws together mystery, romance, and crime into one big mix like an olla podrida. Set in Franco's Spain, it revolves around the remarkably sophisticated 18-year-old Daniel Sempere. After visiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which recalls Borges's labyrinthine Library of Babel, he decides to entrust to his care a tome by Julian Carax called The Shadow of the Wind. He soon discovers not only that he probably has the last extant copy of this work but that someone wants desperately to eradicate all the author's books and will resort to any means necessary, including murder. Daniel meets a wide range of well-developed yet eccentric characters as he wanders throughout Barcelona attempting to ascertain the truth. Zafon's fifth novel follows a traditional narrative; what is outstanding is the metaphysical concept of books that assume a life of their own as the author subtly plays with intertextual references (e.g., a pair of cockatoos named Ortega and Gasset make cameo appearances). Even the plot and characters of Carax's fictitious work are interwoven into this meticulously crafted mosaic. Recommended primarily for public libraries and especially for readers who lead double lives as bibliophiles. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The histories of a mysterious book and its enigmatic author are painstakingly disentangled in this yeasty Dickensian romance: a first novel by a Spanish novelist now living in the US. We meet its engaging narrator Daniel Sempere in 1945, when he's an 11-year-old boy brought by his father, a Barcelona rare-book dealer, to a secret library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Enthralled, Daniel "chooses" an obscure novel, The Shadow of the Wind, a complex quest tale whose author, Julian Carax, reputedly fled Spain at the outbreak of its Civil War, and later died in Paris. Carax and his book obsess Daniel for a decade, as he grows to manhood, falls in and out of fascination, if not love with three beguiling women, and comes ever closer to understanding who Carax was and how he was connected to the family of tyrannical Don Ricardo Aldaya-and why a sinister, "faceless" stranger who identifies himself as Carax's fictional creation ("demonic") "Lain Coubert" has seemingly "got out of the pages of a book so that he could burn it." Daniel's investigations are aided, and sometimes impeded, by a lively gallery of vividly evoked supporting characters. Prominent among them are secretive translator Nuria Monfort (who knows more about Carax's Paris years than she initially reveals); Aldaya family maid Jacinta Coronada, consigned to a lunatic asylum to conceal what she knows; Daniel's ebullient Sancho Panza Fermin Romero de Torres, a wily vagrant working as "bibliographic detective" in the Semperes' bookstore; and vengeful police inspector Fumero, a Javert-like stalker whose refusal to believe Carax is dead precipitates the climax-at which Daniel realizes he's much more than just a reader of Carax'sintricate, sorrowful story. The Shadow of the Wind will keep you up nights-and it'll be time well spent. Absolutely marvelous. Agent: Tom Colchie
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show, organized by Design Observer in association with AIGA and Designers & Books

Winner of the 2014 Type Directors Club Communication Design Award

Praise for Shadow of the Wind:
"Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges for a sprawling magic show."
The New York Times Book Review

“ Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"Wonderous... masterful... The Shadow of the Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero."
Entertainment Weekly (Editor's Choice)

"One gorgeous read."
—Stephen King
Praise for Penguin Drop Caps:

"[Penguin Drop Caps] convey a sense of nostalgia for the tactility and aesthetic power of a physical book and for a centuries-old tradition of beautiful lettering."
Fast Company

“Vibrant, minimalist new typographic covers…. Bonus points for the heartening gender balance of the initial selections.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"The Penguin Drop Caps series is a great example of the power of design. Why buy these particular classics when there are less expensive, even free editions of Great Expectations? Because they’re beautiful objects. Paul Buckley and Jessica Hische’s fresh approach to the literary classics reduces the design down to typography and color. Each cover is foil-stamped with a cleverly illustrated letterform that reveals an element of the story. Jane Austen’s A (Pride and Prejudice) is formed by opulent peacock feathers and Charlotte Bronte’s B (Jane Eyre) is surrounded by flames. The complete set forms a rainbow spectrum prettier than anything else on your bookshelf."
—Rex Bonomelli, The New York Times


"Classic reads in stunning covers—your book club will be dying."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142800805
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/12/2004
  • Series: Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series, #1
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, Approx. 19 Hrs., 16 Cds
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 5.72 (h) x 1.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of six novels. His work has been translated into more than forty languages and published around the world, garnering numerous international prizes and reaching millions of readers. He divides his time between Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, California. He is the author of The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel's Game, The Prince of Mist, The Midnight Palace, The Prisoner of Heaven and The Watcher in the Shadows.

Lucia Graves is the author and translator of many works and has overseen Spanish-language editions of the poetry of her father, Robert Graves.
 Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator, typographer, and web designer. She currently serves on the Type Directors Club board of directors, has been named a Forbes Magazine "30 under 30" in art and design as well as an ADC Young Gun and one of Print Magazine’s "New Visual Artists". She has designed for Wes Anderson, McSweeney's, Tiffany & Co, Penguin Books and many others. She resides primarily in San Francisco, occasionally in Brooklyn.

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Read an Excerpt

A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept. My first thought on waking was to tell my best friend about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Tomás Aguilar was a classmate who devoted his free time and his talent to the invention of wonderfully ingenious contraptions of dubious practicality, like the aerostatic dart or the dynamo spinning top. I pictured us both, equipped with flashlights and compasses, uncovering the mysteries of those bibliographic catacombs. Who better than Tomás to share my secret? Then, remembering my promise, I decided that circumstances advised me to adopt what in detective novels is termed a different modus operandi. At noon I approached my father to quiz him about the book and about Julián Carax-both world famous, I assumed. My plan was to get my hands on his complete works and read them all by the end of the week. To my surprise, I discovered that my father, a natural-born librarian and a walking lexicon of publishers' catalogs and oddities, had never heard of The Shadow of the Wind or Julián Carax. Intrigued, he examined the printing history on the back of the title page for clues.

"It says here that this copy is part of an edition of twenty-five hundred printed in Barcelona by Cabestany Editores, in June 1936."

"Do you know the publishing house?"

"It closed down years ago. But, wait, this is not the original. The first edition came out in November 1935 but was printed in Paris....Published by Galiano & Neuval. Doesn't ring a bell."

"So is this a translation?"

"It doesn't say so. From what I can see, the text must be the original one."

"A book in Spanish, first published in France?"

"It's not that unusual, not in times like these," my father put in. "Perhaps Barceló can help us...."

Gustavo Barceló was an old colleague of my father's who now owned a cavernous establishment on Calle Fernando with a commanding position in the city's secondhand-book trade. Perpetually affixed to his mouth was an unlit pipe that impregnated his person with the aroma of a Persian market. He liked to describe himself as the last romantic, and he was not above claiming that a remote line in his ancestry led directly to Lord Byron himself. As if to prove this connection, Barceló fashioned his wardrobe in the style of a nineteenth-century dandy. His casual attire consisted of a cravat, white patent leather shoes, and a plain glass monocle that, according to malicious gossip, he did not remove even in the intimacy of the lavatory. Flights of fancy aside, the most significant relative in his lineage was his begetter, an industrialist who had become fabulously wealthy by questionable means at the end of the nineteenth century. According to my father, Gustavo Barceló was, technically speaking, loaded, and his palatial bookshop was more of a passion than a business. He loved books unreservedly, and-although he denied this categorically-if someone stepped into his bookshop and fell in love with a tome he could not afford, Barceló would lower its price, or even give it away, if he felt that the buyer was a serious reader and not an accidental browser. Barceló also boasted an elephantine memory allied to a pedantry that matched his demeanor and the sonority of his voice. If anyone knew about odd books, it was he. That afternoon, after closing the shop, my father suggested that we stroll along to the Els Quatre Gats, a café on Calle Montsió, where Barceló and his bibliophile knights of the round table gathered to discuss the finer points of decadent poets, dead languages, and neglected, moth-ridden masterpieces.

Els Quatre Gats was just a five-minute walk from our house and one of my favorite haunts. My parents had met there in 1932, and I attributed my one-way ticket into this world in part to the old café's charms. Stone dragons guarded a lamplit façade anchored in shadows. Inside, voices seemed shaded by the echoes of other times. Accountants, dreamers, and would-be geniuses shared tables with the specters of Pablo Picasso, Isaac Albéniz, Federico García Lorca, and Salvador Dalí. There any poor devil could pass for a historical figure for the price of a small coffee.

"Sempere, old man," proclaimed Barceló when he saw my father come in. "Hail the prodigal son. To what do we owe the honor?"

"You owe the honor to my son, Daniel, Don Gustavo. He's just made a discovery."

"Well, then, pray come and sit down with us, for we must celebrate this ephemeral event," he announced.

"Ephemeral?" I whispered to my father.

"Barceló can express himself only in frilly words," my father whispered back. "Don't say anything, or he'll get carried away."

The lesser members of the coterie made room for us in their circle, and Barceló, who enjoyed flaunting his generosity in public, insisted on treating us.

"How old is the lad?" inquired Barceló, inspecting me out of the corner of his eye.

"Almost eleven," I announced.

Barceló flashed a sly smile.

"In other words, ten. Don't add on any years, you rascal. Life will see to that without your help."

A few of his chums grumbled in assent. Barceló signaled to a waiter of such remarkable decrepitude that he looked as if he should be declared a national landmark.

"A cognac for my friend Sempere, from the good bottle, and a cinnamon milk shake for the young one-he's a growing boy. Ah, and bring us some bits of ham, but spare us the delicacies you brought us earlier, eh? If we fancy rubber, we'll call for Pirelli tires."

The waiter nodded and left, dragging his feet.

"I hate to bring up the subject," Barceló said, "but how can there be jobs? In this country nobody ever retires, not even after they're dead. Just look at El Cid. I tell you, we're a hopeless case."

He sucked on his cold pipe, eyes already scanning the book in my hands. Despite his pretentious façade and his verbosity, Barceló could smell good prey the way a wolf scents blood.

"Let me see," he said, feigning disinterest. "What have we here?"

I glanced at my father. He nodded approvingly. Without further ado, I handed Barceló the book. The bookseller greeted it with expert hands. His pianist's fingers quickly explored its texture, consistency, and condition. He located the page with the publication and printer's notices and studied it with Holmesian flair. The rest watched in silence, as if awaiting a miracle, or permission to breathe again.

"Carax. Interesting," he murmured in an inscrutable tone.

I held out my hand to recover the book. Barceló arched his eyebrows but gave it back with an icy smile.

"Where did you find it, young man?"

"It's a secret," I answered, knowing that my father would be smiling to himself. Barceló frowned and looked at my father. "Sempere, my dearest old friend, because it's you and because of the high esteem I hold you in, and in honor of the long and profound friendship that unites us like brothers, let's call it at forty duros, end of story."

"You'll have to discuss that with my son," my father pointed out. "The book is his."

Barceló granted me a wolfish smile. "What do you say, laddie? Forty duros isn't bad for a first sale....Sempere, this boy of yours will make a name for himself in the business."

The choir cheered his remark. Barceló gave me a triumphant look and pulled out his leather wallet. He ceremoniously counted out two hundred pesetas, which in those days was quite a fortune, and handed them to me. But I just shook my head. Barceló scowled.

"Dear boy, greed is most certainly an ugly, not to say mortal, sin. Be sensible. Call me crazy, but I'll raise that to sixty duros, and you can open a retirement fund. At your age you must start thinking of the future."

I shook my head again. Barceló shot a poisonous look at my father through his monocle.

"Don't look at me," said my father. "I'm only here as an escort."

Barceló sighed and peered at me closely.

"Let's see, junior. What is it you want?"

"What I want is to know who Julián Carax is and where I can find other books he's written."

Barceló chuckled and pocketed his wallet, reconsidering his adversary.

"Goodness, a scholar. Sempere, what do you feed the boy?"

The bookseller leaned toward me confidentially, and for a second I thought he betrayed a look of respect that had not been there a few moments earlier.

"We'll make a deal," he said. "Tomorrow, Sunday, in the afternoon, drop by the Ateneo library and ask for me. Bring your precious find with you so that I can examine it properly, and I'll tell you what I know about Julián Carax. Quid pro quo."

"Quid pro what?"

"Latin, young man. There's no such thing as dead languages, only dormant minds. Paraphrasing, it means that you can't get something for nothing, but since I like you, I'm going to do you a favor."

The man's oratory could kill flies in midair, but I suspected that if I wanted to find out anything about Julián Carax, I'd be well advised to stay on good terms with him. I proffered my most saintly smile in delight at his Latin outpourings.

"Remember, tomorrow, in the Ateneo," pronounced the bookseller. "But bring the book, or there's no deal."


Our conversation slowly merged into the murmuring of the other members of the coffee set. The discussion turned to some documents found in the basement of El Escorial that hinted at the possibility that Don Miguel de Cervantes had in fact been the nom de plume of a large, hairy lady of letters from Toledo. Barceló seemed distracted, not tempted to claim a share in the debate. He remained quiet, observing me from his fake monocle with a masked smile. Or perhaps he was only looking at the book I held in my hands.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Barnes & Biographic questions: Why and when did you move from Barcelona to Los Angeles? Are you planning to stay in the U.S.?

Carlos Ruiz Zafón: I came to L.A. in 1994. It was a time in my life when I needed to get far away from Barcelona, not just distance-wise but in my own mind. I think the experience proved very positive for me. Distance puts things in the right perspective and allows you to get a clearer picture, I think. Now I feel I've come full circle, and I am thinking it's time maybe to go back to my own Barcelona, although I plan to spend part of the year in America, which has also become my home.

B& The Shadow of the Wind was a finalist for the prestigious Fernando Lara Prize, though it didn't win, and then succeeded without promotional support, as a word-of-mouth phenomenon. From L.A., how did you react to your becoming a sort of Spanish Dan Brown?

CRZ: Well, seeing your work so generously embraced by the readers is the best possible reward a novelist could hope for, especially when the response is so sincere and spontaneous, based on the read and not on hype or grand marketing hooplas.

B& The Shadow of the Wind, the novel within the novel, changes the life of Daniel, the main character. Is there a book that has changed your life?

CRZ: I think that rather than a single book, what really changed my life was the discovery of reading, of storytelling, of the world of ideas and the boundless universe contained in books. Therefore, my own Shadow of the Wind is a book of books, of all books.

B& In many places, such as Spain and Latin America, there have been times when people could and did lose their lives because of a book. Did you think about this when you wrote The Shadow…?

CRZ: Yes, very much so. Unfortunately today, as in the past and probably in the future, many will lose their freedom or their lives because of their ideas or simply in the struggle to retain their own moral integrity against totalitarian fanaticism, bigotry, and intolerance of all sorts. I am very aware of that, particularly in the times we seem to be wandering into, where the future is every day more a dark reflection of the past.

B& There is talk of a movie based on The Shadow of the Wind: rumors about whether or not the rights are up for sale, speculation about whether it will be filmed in Hollywood or in Spain, and questions as to whether you, being both an author and screenwriter, would allow others to write the screenplay. What's your view? What would your choice be?

CRZ: Since I have some experience in this area, I am especially cautious regarding the possibility of a film adaptation. If it is to happen, it will be because I feel the right elements are brought together and I'm persuaded that the adventure is worth a try. But at any rate this is not a priority for me at all. I think it is good that novels stay novels, and that there's no need at all for everything to become a movie, a TV show, a video game, a kiddie meal, or a licensed toy of the month. Nothing can tell a story, convey a world, and render characters with the intensity, depth, and magic that literature allows. The Shadow of the Wind will be always first and foremost a book, and proudly so.

B& Before it was translated into English, your book was a success in the U.S. in Spanish. Your work contains echoes of the classic European tone, reflecting the darkness of urban life and of history. It has little to do with the Spanish-language literature that was initially promoted in America: stories (written by Latinos, curiously enough, though perhaps not wisely) about characters that are not typical of real people -- let alone of Latin American literature -- but rather reflect some misconceptions about Latino immigrants or Latin Americans. This trend seems to be declining. What's your opinion on this phenomenon, and what future do you forecast for Spanish-language literature in America?

CRZ: Good question. In fact, I've always regarded the kind of "literature in Spanish" that often has been promoted in America as quite peculiar, when not slightly condescending; as seen in the endless range of lively-colored covers tarting up the-magic-of-love-meets-zesty-cooking-saga that seems to operate under the assumption that an entire literature, from Cervantes to Borges -- one that spans centuries, continents, and radically different cultures -- were an ethnic novelty of sorts, riddled with silly clichés. I suppose that some marketing strategies -- or misconceptions -- have contributed to this. However, fads are, by default, doomed to fall out of fashion, and fast. However, the fate of literature in Spanish in America is in the hands of the Spanish-speaking, and -reading, peoples.

B& The Shadow... absorbs readers with a plot that does not need second readings -- it stands by itself. However, it also holds great fascination for those who enjoy books that talk about other books, bearing traces of and references to other authors (Borges, Mendoza, et al.), titles, genres, and literary prototypes. Would you tell us your top ten literary passions?

CRZ: I am a voracious reader, so it is hard for me to condense my literary passions and references into a shortlist. I try to read widely, without prejudice, with curiosity, and paying little or no attention whatsoever to "critical" fashion or the temporary fads of what is hot, cool, or tepid at any given time. I like mostly the great novelists of the 19th century, from Dickens to Flaubert to Tolstoy and all the giants. I like the modernist American writers from the early 20th century, such as John Dos Passos. I am interested in genre fiction, or what the snobs call para-literature, for I believe that that's where the most interesting writing of the past 25 years has been produced, away from the overhyped and underwritten wasteland of the literary mainstream and below the academic radar. I am interested in many elements of the visual grammar of film and multimedia, which I believe can enrich the narrative discourse of the future novel.... Mostly I tend to read nonfiction, especially history. But above all I like to discover new authors, new voices, no matter where they come from, paying zero attention to what is being peddled as fashionable or cool, which I always find to be the ultimate uncool.

B& you ever had the nightmare of becoming, like Julián Carax, an author of wonderful books that (almost) no one reads?

CRZ: I guess all writers fear their work will be forgotten, not to mention never discovered in the first place. Unfortunately, most of them are right. Literature is a cruel lover, and Lady Luck doesn't smile often on those who flirt with her.

B& Before The Shadow... you won awards and recognition for young-adult novels containing elements of mystery and romance. What's the difference between writing for younger readers and for adults? Why did you change?

CRZ: The switch came naturally because my years as a young-adult novelist were more of an accident than a vocation. My real narrative voice was never in that genre, and sooner or later I had to write what I had to write. That said, the difference isn't that significant. At the end of the day you've got to write with craft and sincerity and squeeze the best you've got into each page. I think that the differences between what is considered juvenile or adult fare are, most of the time, arbitrary. Ninety-nine percent of the current popular culture consumed by billions of adults around the world is strictly juvenile, and nobody seems to have a problem with that, or even notice. These things are just labels. And, as easily as they're attached, they're detached.

B& How's your next book evolving? What's it about?

CRZ: It is under construction, under wraps, and under state secrecy. All I can say is that is a novel along the lines of The Shadow of the Wind, a literary mystery once again set in my own gothic Barcelona...

B& else that you'd like to share with your readers?

CRZ: I'd like to invite them to the adventure of reading, to take the leap beyond conventions and discover new authors and new books of which they never heard before, to develop their own criteria. To read is to live more, and live better. Life is short, so carpe diem, and carpe libri.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. Julián Carax's and Daniel's lives follow very similar trajectories. Yet one ends in tragedy, the other in happiness. What similarities are there between the paths they take? What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?

2. Nuria Monfort tells Daniel, "Julián once wrote that coincidences are the scars of fate. There are no coincidences, Daniel. We are the puppets of our unconscious." What does that mean? What does she refer to in her own experience and in Julián's life?

3. Nuria Monfort's dying words, meant for Julián, are, "There are worse prisons than words." What does she mean by this? What is she referring to?

4. There are many devil figures in the story-Carax's Laín Coubert, Jacinta's Zacarias, Fermín's Fumero. How does evil manifest itself in each devil figure? What are the characteristics of the villains/devils?

5. Discuss the title of the novel. What is "The Shadow of the Wind"? Where does Zafón refer to it and what does he use the image to illustrate?

6. Zafón's female characters are often enigmatic, otherworldly angels full of power and mystery. Clara the blind white goddess ultimately becomes a fallen angel; Carax credits sweet Bea with saving his and Daniel's lives; Daniel's mother is actually an angel whose death renders her so ephemeral that Daniel can't even remember her face. Do you think Zafón paints his female characters differently than his male characters? What do the women represent in Daniel's life? What might the Freud loving Miquel Moliner say about Daniel's relationships with women?

7. Daniel says of The Shadow of the Wind, "As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within" (p. 7). Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind unfolds much the same way, with many characters contributing fragments of their own stories in the first person point of view. What does Zafón illustrate with this method of storytelling? What do the individual mini-autobiographies contribute to the tale?

8. The evil Fumero is the only son of a ridiculed father and a superficial, status-seeking mother. The troubled Julián is the bastard son of a love-starved musical mother and an amorous, amoral businessman, though he was raised by a cuckolded hatmaker. Do you think their personalities are products of nature or nurture? How are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon each of the characters?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 880 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 882 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    They just do not get any better than this one.

    I have over 4,000 books in my personal library. I have been an voracious reader for almost 60 years and I am not sure I have ever read a book that has as many good things going for it as The Shadow of the Wind. Not only are the characters interesting but there are so many really good ones. When the movie is made of this novel, the actors are going to be standing in line for any part they can get. A love story, an historical mystery, a story about a boy growing up and his relationship with his father, a great supporting cast all woven together by a superb storyteller.

    I want someone to take me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I want to wander the shelves and find my Shadow of the Wind. If you like to read you are going to love this book, I did. An A+

    105 out of 109 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Simply amazing!

    The writing style, the characters, a plot that continually keeps you guessing...I am scouring book lists to find another book that even comes close to this one. And I am picky! I would find it hard to find a book that flows so smoothly.

    35 out of 37 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2009

    In Vain, I shall attempt to describe.

    Though I may be young, I'm no idiot. A lot of novels that come out these days reek of our modern day, which isn't always what we are wanting.<BR/><BR/>The way this book is written takes you to another world... you yourself feel consumed by the story and it's events. In the beginning of the story, young Daniel is brought to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books- a resting place of sorts for books who only weather the times due to it's walls. His father tells him that every book in that cemetery has been somebody's best friend. Daniel is to choose a book of his choice, and to be it's protector, to ensure it remains alive has it has in the Cemetery of Forgotten books. He chooses "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax.<BR/><BR/>In a way... you increasingly feel as if you are this books protector, something in my mind that could only be done through the words of a masterpiece. And as the story progresses, one cannot help but to feel as if they've come to know Barcelona, and it's saintly, or otherwise, people.<BR/><BR/>If you are wanting a good book to read, I assure you by picking up this book will bring you no form of regret nor sense of lost time. It's truly a book that by means unknown to you entices you until your spellbound, which in all honestly is accomplished by the first page.<BR/><BR/>Pick up a copy... you will not mourn the loss of the few dollars, rather wonder how less then fifteen dollars reaped such an excellent read.

    30 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    Intriguing Mystery

    This is one of the best books I have ever read in terms of plot, character development and the quality of the writing. Carlos Ruiz Zafon has written an absorbing and compelling story that I could not put down. The translator did a masterful job. Simply a great book.

    21 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2008

    A bit difficult to follow at times

    I agree that the story did pull you in. But I read aloud in my head (a contradiction in terms, I know) and found it difficult to pronounce many of the names and places in the book. Too, at times, it seemed he went off on a path so far at times, that I had to go back a few pages to try to remember what he was writing about in the first place. All and all though, it was a very good book and a recommended read. I will say though that I was able to figure out some of the surprises, including the relationship between two of the main characters. I can see why Stephen King liked this book, as he's famous for going off on tagents for pages and pages and losing the reader at times.

    13 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Historically Memorable

    From cover to cover this book engrosses it's audience with beautifully written literature. I casually came across this book through this site and I devoured the first half of the book within the first night. I thoroughly and utterly recommend this book since it is unparallel to any other book you will ever encounter.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Glad I Broke Down and Read It

    I think any reader can relate: "...few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a place in our memory to which, soon or later-no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget - we wil return." Any avid reader can read those words and instantly name the book that for him/her fits that description. Now imagine that after that transformative experience you cannot find another copy of that book or other work by the author. Not only are you disappointed that you can't read more of his/her work, but you realize you can't introduce your new find to others. That is the situation Daniel is in after discovering The Shadow in the Wind by Julian Carax in the Cemetary of Forgotten Books. But, Daniel is undeterred. He is determined to learn the history of Carax. Daniel uncovers a tragic life undone by a web of secrets that eerily parallel his own life. As Daniel peels back each layer of Carax's life, the more in danger his life becomes. &lt;br/&gt;&lt;br/&gt;I have seen very mixed reviews. I thought it was an excellent book. I loved the thought that books carry a bit of the soul of the author and that words are important. I thought it had a good suspense throughout the book, wonderful characters, and a great stoyline.

    My only complaint (very minor) was how random freindship with Fermin. I loved the character of Fermin, but how many business owners are really going to hire a homeless guy off the street that no one knows anything about?

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Big Hopes, fell a Little Short

    The librarian where I work highly recommended this one. It started out great with me highlighting several passages of intriguing depth, however, the story began to grow mundane and predictable as the main character's life "shadowed" the fictitious author's life. The earlier quality of writing was not seen again for the remainder of the book, and I feel that there were several missed opportunities to truly make the reader more invested in the characters.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This book was absoulutly amazing, a great read for more mature readers, such as the very mature young adults- adults, due to some questionable scenes, but overall I loved the writing style, characters, conflicts, love intrests and the story underneath all the rest about a boy growing into a man through painful experiences that make him stronger.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Shadow of the Wind tells a story you will want to immerse yourself in again and again.

    I've always loved reading, I can't go about life without having a book at hand. I also find myself to be picky about some books, so I came to the conclusion that I would never have a favorite. I was wrong. From the first sentence to the very last, this book had me under it's spell. I would refuse to sleep at night so I could further indulge my need to find out what would happen next. I have never read such a beautiful story in my life. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an amazing author, and Lucia Graves did an equally amazing job with the translation. I got into The Shadow of the Wind thinking it would be very serious, but to my surprise, I could not have imagined how hilarious the dialogue or story would get at certain points when I first opened it. This book has a little of everything so anyone can enjoy it. I cannot recommend this novel enough, and all I know is that I will continue to read Mr. Zafon's stories until I die, and hope that someday I find a place like the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully written - Engrossing Characters and Story

    A true work of literature but in a good way. The main character, Daniel, is lovable and believable ~ the story is interesting and intriguing. I have enjoyed several of B&N recommendations (see below). I enjoy many types of books but few are as memorable as this.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    This book was very different! Beautifully written, but very slow to start. I thought that it would be mostly about the cemetery of forgotten books mentioned in the synopsis, but it was about a boy investigating the mysterious disappearance of an obscure author. It is also about TRAGIC love and how it can destroy someone's life completely due to ignorance. What I did not like about the book was the villain- a VILE police officer and the ending was too rushed after such a sloooow storyline.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    This book quickly became my favorite book. I started it one evening and just couldn't put it down. It has been a long time since a book had gripped me, nay, made me so obsessive that I had to continue reading it. Zafon's description of the cemetary for books is definately a place I'd love to visit before I die. Enchanting and thrilling all at once.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010


    Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an amazing author. His writing style is captivating and beautiful. He holds you throughout an off beat tale with fantastic character development and vivid imagery. No matter where the story took you, you are willing to buy into it because Zafon is so cohesive. Be prepared to cancel your plans, as once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down, you are simply too invested in the characters not to find out their fate. I recommend this book to all of my friends. After reading it I could not wait for his next book, Angel's Game, to be translated into English as well.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    One of the best books I've ever read!

    This book was selected for my book club by a gal who said it was in her 10 top reads ever...well I have to agree completely-it's got everything in it-suspense, mystery, great characters, and it all takes place in one of most amazing cities in the world-Barcelona! I highly suggest this book to anyone who loves to read-it will quickly become one of your favorites!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    I second all of the 5 star reviews! Another book I'd like to recommend that I absolutely fell in love with is E X P L O S I O N I N P A R I S, by LINDA MASEMORE PIRRUNG......EXPLOSION IN PARIS.....Riveting! Heart pounding, gut-wrenching, heart-warming, luminous writing, emotional insight, conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose, courage...and a timeless love story! Should be on every woman's book club list!! Check out the reviews! They hooked ME!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2009

    Captivating Summer Read

    The mission of reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was handed to me as a summer assignment for school. Being an athlete as well as a high school senior this task seemed to be more of a chore than anything. The beginning of the book did not heighten my interest as it started off slow, but the book eventually blossomed into an amazing story, captivating my attention. Zafon offers the reader a tremendous story of mystery, love, and symbolism that keeps the mind thinking while filling it with contentment. I found my hands to be tied to this book as it seemed to follow me wherever I went. Overall this was a very good read and a great way to spend your free time.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    This book is a great read. It has all of the key ingredients that make a book very satisfying for me to read. It has a mystery that I couldn't figure out. It had several romantic stories. It was set against the backdrop of history.

    All of the above ingredients makes this a book that you can not put down. It's an excellent read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2009

    Combines the love of reading with an intricate plot

    I read this for my book club and we all enjoyed the the plot twists and the characters. Carlos Ruiz Zafon keeps you intrigued throughout the story. The descriptions of Barcelona reminded me of a trip that I made there. For anyone that loves books this is a must read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009


    This book was very well written and original in its content. I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to read the author's next book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 882 Customer Reviews

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