In which I test for coronavirus. No, I don't have symptoms! I was asked to take part in a survey which I agreed to because I just love the idea of sticking a swab down my throat until I gag and then shoving it up my nostrils til they bleed. The things you do for science....
I was devastated to hear this morning of the death of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. He was my favourite author, someone whom I aspired to in my own writing. I wanted to spend the rest of my life reading his books. I wanted to grow old with him. He was my age so it could have been.
But it wasn’t to be.
I first discovered his work, like most people, when I read The Shadow of the Wind. I have no idea how I came to own this book. I was tidying my bookshelf one day and there it was. The fact that this book, a brand new hardback in perfect condition, turned up so mysteriously is almost part of the story of the wonderful Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There is no other place on earth where I would like more to get lost, that labyrinthine library of obscure titles and forgotten authors. I felt as if I was one of them myself. The book thus appealed to me on two levels: as a writer as well as an avid reader and lover of books.
When I told my daughter this morning of the death of Carlos Ruiz Zafón, I was in a flood of tears and anguish. You hear of celebrities dying every week. It was Bilbo’s turn the other day. But Ian Holm lived to 88. He’d had good innings, as they say. Although The Shadow of the Wind was an instant classic, I felt that Carlos still had more stories in him that would blow me away. I was blown away by Shadow and blown away by its non-sequel sequel, The Angel’s Game. I’ve since read all four novels in the Cemetery of Lost Books sequence, finishing the last one only earlier this year, just before lockdown.
“What is it about?” my daughter asked me when I told her to read The Shadow of the Wind.
“It’s about books. A bookshop. A labyrinthine library of books. It’s set in Barcelona. The people are fascinating.”
I’m not sure if I did the book justice.
I learnt more from Carlos Ruiz Zafón than I have from any other writer. In The Labyrinth of Spirits, some advice is given to a young writer, something I understood instantly:
To write is to rewrite. One writes for oneself, and one rewrites for others.
Rest in peace Carlos Ruiz Zafón. You were taken from us too soon but you left us the most wonderful books to read, a window into a labyrinthine imagination. One day I hope you have the chance to create again.
I reviewed The Angel’s Game here
I wrote about being inspired by his writing here
I live in Bloomsbury.
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