Brief Biography of Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Zafón was born in Barcelona in 1964. Although his parents weren’t particularly artistic, his father loved books and always stressed that literature was very important. He went to military school and later studied Information Sciences at university. He began his career working in publicity, and eventually rose to become creative director of an important Barcelona publicity agency, but in 1992 he gave up this job to pursue literature. His first novels were directed towards children and published throughout the 1990s, until he wrote his first novel for adults, The Shadow of the Wind, in 2001. He has since written two sequels, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. Zafón lives in Barcelona.
Historical Context of The Shadow of the Wind
In 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out when the Nationalists, a group of conservative military leaders under the fascist General Francisco Franco, attempted to overthrow the country’s moderate republican government. In response, civilian-led anarchist and socialist coalitions took control of several cities, including Barcelona. Fighting continued across the country for three years, during which the anarchist and socialist groups lost power and the Republican forces became dominated by the Soviet-controlled Communist party. The international community believed that the war would be the definitive struggle between communism and fascism (although it was soon overshadowed by World War II), and although most countries did not officially intervene, tens of thousands of foreigners flocked to Spain to fight for the Republican cause (including famous authors George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway). Purges within political parties were frequent, and civilian casualties were high; Barcelona in particular endured prolonged periods of guerilla fighting in the city streets. The fall of Barcelona in 1938 marked the war’s turning point in the Nationalists’ favor, and by 1939 Franco was in control of the entire country. He ruled Spain as a dictator until 1975; his rule was highly repressive and culturally conservative, and he was known for killing or jailing those who opposed him. The Civil War is an extremely traumatic event in Spanish history, both because violence towards civilians was so rampant and because divided loyalties tore apart towns and families. After Franco’s death, the country transitioned peacefully to democracy and pardoned most of his collaborators. However, leftist groups and the families of Franco’s victims still protest the lack of consequences for those they considered criminals. Mass graves containing the bodies of Spanish civilians and soldiers are still being discovered in rural areas and town outskirts today.
Other Books Related to The Shadow of the Wind
Although Zafón wrote in the 21st century, his novel takes place largely in the 1950s; he creates an atmosphere similar to those of midcentury authors like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, who wrote literary detective novels in which hard-boiled heroes operated in seedy neighborhoods of famous cities. Stylistically, Zafón’s prose recalls the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez, whose novels also take place in the real world while including elements of the supernatural, and who also includes frequent notes of absurdity despite the overall seriousness of his work. Readers who wish to learn more about the Spanish Civil War might consult George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia
, a memoir of his time as a Republican soldier that gives an excellent view of the infighting between different political parties and the purges, betrayals, and chaos that characterized the war.
Key Facts about The Shadow of the Wind
Full Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Where Written: Barcelona, Spain
When Published: 2001
Literary Period: Contemporary
Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Magical Realism
Setting: Mid-20th-century Barcelona, Spain
Climax: Daniel and Carax fight and kill Inspector Fumero in the Aldaya mansion
Antagonist: Inspector Javier Fumero
Point of View: First-person limited and third-person limited
Extra Credit for The Shadow of the Wind