You may have read that the amazing author and word artist Carlos Ruiz Zafon passed away last week. Zafon’s writing has touched millions and he has been said to be the most famous Spanish writer after Cervantes. I was deeply saddened to read of Zafon’s death and of his battle with colon cancer. His writing was a thing of beauty and a source of great inspiration for me as a writer and a reader and I have eagerly hoped for a new beautiful book from this amazing author and had no clue that he had been ill, I am sorry to say. So, today, I’d like to pause and write a tribute to this author who has been a huge source of inspiration to me and who truly understood what it meant to be a writer.
I first came across The Shadow of the Wind as I was winding my way through bookstore shelves looking for titles and covers that drew me in. This is my preferred way of finding books – just by wandering the stacks. It’s harder to search for books online. That may not make a lot of sense because searching online is more efficient. But, there is something about the chase, of finding a book a bit like a diamond in the rough among piles and piles of paper and ink that adds to the experience of reading. Online is all about algorithms.
I remember first being struck by the title of Zafon’s book. I hadn’t heard of him before either. But, the words were intriguing. As you know, a wind has no shadow, in reality of course. But, to take the concept of the wind which is something that is physically felt or heard and give it the qualities of something that can be seen if one looks closely is incredibly eerie and sensory in a different way. It’s also extremely poetic. And Zafon, it turns out, is very much a poet with his prose.
As a reader and a semi-expert in all things Gothic due to my focus on this genre during my graduate school years, I hadn’t read any Gothic-inspired tales that take place in Spain. I eagerly took up the book and went home.
I devoured this book. And then I read it again. I craved more of this world Zafon had woven, a world filled with mystery and danger. But, it was also filled with humor and great characters. One of the best characters I have ever read comes from Zafon – the incorrigible Fermin. But beyond that, I received a picture of Barcelona. To this day, I still dream about going to Barcelona and I hope that there is a tour of Barcelona inspired by The Shadow of the Wind and Zafon’s entire series, similar to how you can take a Ulysses tour of Dublin based on the book by James Joyce.
If you have not read Zafon and are looking for a new read, I recommend the entire series that includes The Shadow of the Wind. It’s an experience that will not disappoint. I am grateful that I discovered this book so many years ago and that I got to experience the others that go along with it. Zafon is someone I recommend to everyone who asks me what they should read.
Here’s to you Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I hope you rest peacefully and know how much you and your amazing storytelling are beloved by the world.