Barcelona, 1945. The civil war is well and truly over and Franco’s bully boys rule the roost. However, Spain’s fascist regime is looking more and more isolated; Mussolini has fallen and the allies are closing in on Hitler.
One winter’s morning a ten-year-old boy, Daniel, is taken by his bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a labyrinthine library of obscure titles that have long gone out of print. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out “La sombra del viento” (The Shadow of the Wind) by Julian Carax.
So begins Daniel’s fascination with the enigmatic Julian Carax. As he grows up, he becomes determined to unravel the mystery. Why did Carax flee Barcelona, and why is somebody trying to destroy all copies of his books and all traces of his life?
The destruction of an artist’s life and works is a potent exploration of censorship and the ability of Franco’s followers to fictionalise history. Life imitates art as Daniel’s life seems to parallel Carax’s. Haunted and pursued by the mysterious leatherfaced man who is out to destroy Carax’s work, Daniel finds himself also haunted by the women he desires, and by the need to construct an emotional self beyond the boundaries of childhood.
“The Shadow of the Wind” is an extraordinarily well-written novel. It moves at a gentle, cerebral pace, so you barely notice you are on a rollercoaster ride through fantasy. Yet it is a wonderful evocation of Barcelona – not the city of tourist brochure and sunshine, but a dark, mysterious city, lived in by real people enduring real fear and oppression. The fantasy is merely a dark cloak; once you begin to peer under it you feel this is a vivid insight into the subconscious of Spain.
You can buy the book here: <The Shadow Of The Wind