Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind was a fun but over-worded novel. When Daniel, Julian, and Fumero finally meet in the geometric web in the same room, the vectors intersect and the parallels move to climax and the complexity is unwoven. But then clunk.

It wasn’t hard, early on in the novel, to grasp the “burned man’s” identity; this, however, didn’t matter. One of the things that kept me reading was a simple question: why would Julian want to destroy his creative imprint? Thus, the slow, multi-voiced unfolding. Zafón crafts an interesting space, a wet, slick, smoky, and tightly designed and powerfully stratified Barcelona, but I wonder at the end of the novel in light of its concept of parallel narrative and sense of solipsistic interiority. Yes, the mystery of identity and cruelty is solved (we learn from Nuria why Julian would burn his books and why he morphs into Lain Colbert), but the suggestion of a reverberative lack beyond just the solutions (those that Daniel seeks) makes me smile a bit.

In the novel, Julian flees to France, avoiding anger over a relationship with his half-sister, Penelope. He lives most of his life in France ignorant of his son’s and Penelope’s cruel death, all the time hoping for a convergence. This narrative approach (we want to know the consequences of his knowing, which doesn’t necessarily require a linear telling) makes Daniel’s decisions and actions at least interesting enough to follow or reflect upon. Daniel’s innocent actions ripple and effect everyone, including Julian. If I wasn’t in such a good mood (at least a little beyond brooding), I’d argue that Zafon dwells a little much on details that prove ambient but skippable, much like the contents of a Harry Potter novel (I’ve read two, well one and a half, if you don’t count the parts I skipped; make that one then).

Side note: The more I think about Borges’ ideas on story length, the more I agree with him.

Now to finish Andreas.

2 thoughts on “Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind

  1. gibb

    Interesting points you bring out, and I would tend to agree though I felt this novel which I read a couple of months ago was too contrived. The characters often acted in (what I felt to be) an unlikely manner, and the eventual revelation had been so fore”shadow”ed in dialogue that had these people not met–in fact, had Daniel never pulled that particular book off the shelf (guess it hadn’t been hidden that well) and liked it, despite the fact that it wasn’t considered great by anyone else, they never would have resolved the issues much less questioned them. It had a bit of the Romeo and Juliet twist but Shakespeare carries it off so much better. Zafon weaves a web, yes, but too perfectly aligned for my tastes. I think, as you say, much of the text could have been eliminated and I would suggest that it be the recapitulation of the plot in the dialogue.

  2. Steve Post author

    That’s why I claim it’s a geometric narrative. In other words, the novel’s concept is to pull off all the elements of fate, a tricky enterprise, that the novelist barely pulls off here. The saving grace, if there is one, is the “state” of each character, being in ignorance, among the swirl of all events.

    The “choice” of the novel in the CFB is exactly that tricky element, an extraction of Borges, a lucky strike. Another choice, would have incited another narrative. This would have been an interesting hypertext.

    This is an okay, and yes, contrived novel. I agree. But can we trust that Fumero actually takes the gun away from the other cop (Palmeri?). I don’t.
    I found Daniel’s father a tad bit questionable as well.

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