Instead Daniel finds Clara naked in bed, having sex with Neri. He stands paralyzed for several seconds until Neri catches sight of him and, without telling Clara what’s wrong, gets up and drags Daniel out of the room. He throws Daniel out of the apartment and threatens to beat him up if he ever talks to Clara again. Then Neri punches him and takes away his keys to the apartment.
By refusing to tell Clara what he sees, Neri disempowers her and establishes his quarrel with Daniel as a conflict over ownership of a woman, rather than a competition for her attention or regard. Importantly, Neri wins this argument through brute force, rather than reason or appeal to the woman in question herself.
Outside the building, Daniel encounters the same homeless man he met on the way in. The man gives Daniel some wine to help him compose himself and introduces himself as Fermín Romero de Torres. He immediately launches into a complicated story of his past career in Cuban “high espionage,” which was only derailed when Franco came to power. Deducing that Daniel is suffering “woman trouble,” he declares that all Spanish women are “a sanctimonious, frigid lot” and not worth the trouble. As he keeps talking, Daniel can tell that the man is longing for friendship and conversation even more than material comforts.
This is Daniel’s first encounter with the man who will become his most important father figure besides Mr. Sempere. With his flamboyant conversation and blatant anti-government attitude, Fermín is a contrast to the cautious and understated Mr. Sempere. It’s also important that while Daniel characterizes Fermín as lonely and naturally craving friendship, Fermín forges his connection with Daniel by making crass generalizations about women, a troubling brand of male bonding.
Daniel takes his leave from Fermín and walks to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. While he waits for someone to answer his knock, he rereads The Shadow of the Wind’s first sentence, in which the protagonist’s mother exhorts him to search out his real father. He recalls the first time he read the book, feeling the same wonder and fascination now.
Although the novel is obviously a work of fiction, it provides Daniel a connection to the reality of his own childhood – a reality that, after this disappointing night, seems far away.
When Isaac answers the door, Daniel confides that he needs to hide the book from someone who wants to burn it. Although he’s grouchy, Isaac takes Daniel into his office to warm up by the stove and clean off his cuts. He says if Daniel behaves, he’ll give him some information on Julian Carax.
Although he tries to be cranky, Isaac behaves tenderly toward Daniel. This demonstrates a solidarity among people who read and love books, even if they’re very different otherwise. When Isaac explains his relationship with his own child, it will become clear that his behavior toward Daniel is similar to that of many of the novel’s fathers, who are kinder to other people’s children than to their own.