Read The Shadow of the Wind Online
Authors: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
THE PENQUIN PRESS
THE PENGUIN PRESS
a member of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
Copyright Â© Carlos Ruiz ZafÃ³n, 2001
Translation copyright Â© Lucia Graves, 2004
All rights reserved
Orginally published in Spanish as
La Sombra del Viento
by Editorial Planeta, S.A., Barcelona.
This publication has been translated with aid from the General Department for Books, Archives and Libraries of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Ruiz ZafÃ³n, Carlos, 1964â
[La Sombra del viento. English]
The shadow of the wind / Carlos Ruiz ZafÃ³n; translated by Lucia Graves.
I. Graves, Lucia. II. Title.
PQ6668. U49S6613 2004
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For Joan Ramon Planas, who deserves better
STILL REMEMBER THE DAY MY FATHER TOOK ME TO THE
Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa MÃ³nica in a wreath of liquid copper.
“Daniel, you mustn't tell anyone what you're about to see today,” my father warned. “Not even your friend TomÃ¡s. No one.”
“Not even Mommy?”
My father sighed, hiding behind the sad smile that followed him like a shadow through life.
“Of course you can tell her,” he answered, heavyhearted. “We keep no secrets from her. You can tell her everything.”
Shortly after the Civil War, an outbreak of cholera had taken my mother away. We buried her in MontjuÃ¯c on my fourth birthday. I can only recall that it rained all day and all night, and that when I asked my father whether heaven was crying, he couldn't bring himself to reply. Six years later my mother's absence remained in the air around us, a deafening silence that I had not yet learned to stifle with words. My father and I lived in a modest apartment on Calle Santa Ana, a stone's throw from the church square. The apartment was directly above the bookshop, a legacy from my grandfather that specialized in rare collectors' editions and secondhand booksâan enchanted bazaar, which my father hoped would one day be mine. I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day. As a child I learned to fall asleep talking to my mother in the darkness of my bedroom, telling her about the day's events, my adventures at school, and the things I had been taught. I couldn't hear her voice or feel her touch, but her radiance and her warmth haunted every corner of our home, and I believed, with the innocence of those who can still count their age on their ten fingers, that if I closed my eyes and spoke to her, she would be able to hear me wherever she was. Sometimes my father would listen to me from the dining room, crying in silence.
On that June morning, I woke up screaming at first light. My heart was pounding in my chest as if it feared that my soul wanted to carve its way out and run off down the stairs. My father hurried into my room and held me in his arms, trying to calm me.
“I can't remember her face. I can't remember Mommy's face,” I muttered, breathless.
My father held me tight.
“Don't worry, Daniel. I'll remember for both of us.”
We looked at each other in the half-light, searching for words that didn't exist. For the first time, I realized my father was growing old. He stood up and drew the curtains to let in the pale glint of dawn.
“Come, Daniel, get dressed. I want to show you something,” he said.
“Now? At five o'clock in the morning?”
“Some things can only be seen in the shadows,” my father said, flashing a mysterious smile probably borrowed from the pages of one of his worn Alexandre Dumas romances.
Night watchmen still lingered in the misty streets when we stepped out of the front door. The lamps along the Ramblas sketched an avenue of vapor that faded as the city began to awake. When we reached Calle Arco del Teatro, we continued through its arch toward the Raval quarter, entering a vault of blue haze. I followed my father through that narrow lane, more of a scar than a street, until the gleam of the Ramblas faded behind us. The brightness of dawn filtered down from balconies and cornices in streaks of slanting light that dissolved before touching the ground. At last my father stopped in front of a large door of carved wood, blackened by time and humidity. Before us loomed what to my eyes seemed the carcass of a palace, a place of echoes and shadows.
“Daniel, you mustn't tell anyone what you're about to see today. Not even your friend TomÃ¡s. No one.”
A smallish man with vulturine features framed by thick gray hair opened the door. His impenetrable aquiline gaze rested on mine.
“Good morning, Isaac. This is my son, Daniel,” my father announced. “Soon he'll be eleven, and one day the shop will be his. It's time he knew this place.”
The man called Isaac nodded and invited us in. A blue-tinted gloom obscured the sinuous contours of a marble staircase and a gallery of frescoes peopled with angels and fabulous creatures. We followed our host through a palatial corridor and arrived at a sprawling round hall, a virtual basilica of shadows spiraling up under a high glass dome, its dimness pierced by shafts of light that stabbed from above. A labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive woven with tunnels, steps, platforms, and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry. I looked at my father, stunned. He smiled at me and winked.
“Welcome to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel.”
I could make out about a dozen human figures scattered among the library's corridors and platforms. Some of them turned to greet me from afar, and I recognized the faces of various colleagues of my father's, fellows of the secondhand-booksellers' guild. To my ten-year-old eyes, they looked like a brotherhood of alchemists in furtive study. My father knelt next to me and, with his eyes fixed on mine, addressed me in the hushed voice he reserved for promises and secrets.
“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. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you'll be able to keep such a secret?”
My gaze was lost in the immensity of the place and its sorcery of light. I nodded, and my father smiled.
“And do you know the best thing about it?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“According to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose a book, whichever he wants, and adopt it, making sure that it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive. It's a very important promise. For life,” explained my father. “Today it's your turn.”
For almost half an hour, I wandered within the winding labyrinth, breathing in the smell of old paper and dust. I let my hand brush across the avenues of exposed spines, musing over what my choice would be. Among the titles faded by age, I distinguished words in familiar languages and others I couldn't identify. I roamed through galleries filled with hundreds, thousands of volumes. After a while it occurred to me that between the covers of each of those books lay a boundless universe waiting to be discovered, while beyond those walls, in the outside world, people allowed life to pass by in afternoons of football and radio soaps, content to do little more than gaze at their navels. It might have been that notion, or just chance, or its more flamboyant relative, destiny, but at that precise moment I knew I had already chosen the book I was going to adopt, or that was going to adopt me. It stood out timidly on one corner of a shelf, bound in wine-colored leather. The gold letters of its title gleamed in the light bleeding from the dome above. I drew near and caressed them with the tips of my fingers, reading to myself.
HADOW OF THE
I had never heard of the title or the author, but I didn't care. The decision had been taken. I pulled the volume down with great care and leafed through the pages, letting them flutter. Once liberated from its prison on the shelf, the book shed a cloud of golden dust. Pleased with my choice, I tucked it under my arm and retraced my steps through the labyrinth with a smile on my lips. Perhaps the bewitching atmosphere of the place had got the better of me, but I felt sure that
The Shadow of the Wind
had been waiting for me there for years, probably since before I was born.
HAT AFTERNOON, BACK IN THE APARTMENT ON
barricaded myself in my room to read the first few lines. Before I knew what was happening, I had fallen right into it. The novel told the story of a man in search of his real father, whom he never knew and whose existence was only revealed to him by his mother on her deathbed. The story of that quest became a ghostly odyssey in which the protagonist struggled to recover his lost youth, and in which the shadow of a cursed love slowly surfaced to haunt him until his last breath. 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. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections. The minutes and hours glided by as in a dream. When the cathedral bells tolled midnight, I barely heard them. Under the warm light cast by the reading lamp, I was plunged into a new world of images and sensations, peopled by characters who seemed as real to me as my room. Page after page I let the spell of the story and its world take me over, until the breath of dawn touched my window and my tired eyes slid over the last page. I lay in the bluish half-light with the book on my chest and listened to the murmur of the sleeping city. My eyes began to close, but I resisted. I did not want to lose the story's spell or bid farewell to its characters yet.
NCE, IN MY FATHER'S BOOKSHOP
HEARD A REGULAR CUSTOMER SAY
that 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 palace in our memory to which, sooner or laterâno matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forgetâwe will return. For me those enchanted pages will always be the ones I found among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.