Spanish Lit Month: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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…you want me to invent a fable that will make the unwary fall on their knees and persuade them that they have seen the light, that there is something to believe in, something to live and die for-even to kill for?”

“Exactly. I’m not asking for you to invent anything that hasn’t already been invented, one way or another. I’m only asking you to help me give water to the thirsty.

This prequel to The Shadow of the Wind holds the same mystery and wonderfully tense atmosphere, with a dedication to books which borders on religious. Andreas Corelli, French publisher with the ever present angel brooch on his lapel, makes the above proposition to author David Martin. He wants David to write a book that has less to do with containing a story than it does with harboring a soul for The Angel’s Game has nothing to do with angels, but everything to do with love, revenge and bibliophilia.

We find the Cemetery of Forgotten Books here again, which is a fortress of tunnels and bridges all leading to a cathedral made of books.

This place is a mystery. A sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and loved and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands, a new spirit…

Andreas Corelli’s game is played out on this board, involving the beautiful city of Barcelona with its real streets, such as Calle Santa Ana on which can be found the bookshop belonging to Sempere & Son, and the real cathedral, Santa Maria del Mar. It is an intricate retreat into the dangers and hopes that novels give us, all with a touch of Spain that is perfect for Spanish Literature Month.

Before I go, a few favorite quotes:

“I don’t trust people who say they have a lot of friends. It’s a sure sign that they really don’t know anyone.”

“May I offer you anything? A small glass of cyanide?”

“We can only accept as true what can be narrated.”

“There is nothing in the path of life that we don’t already know before we start. Nothing important is learned; it is simply remembered.”

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16 thoughts on “Spanish Lit Month: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon”

    1. Recording the quotes from the book I’m currently reading has become my new “thing”‘to put in my reading journal. There’s no sense letting all those great ideas slip away, and I think they add to a post in terms of giving a glimpse into the author’s mind.

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  1. I agree with Suko – the photo is great! And the book sounds really worthwhile too.

    By this Catalan author I only know The Shadow of the Wind that I reviewed on my blog about three years ago – because I just loved it!!! The whole idea of a Cemetery of Forgotten Books is wonderful, don’t you think? Moreover, in this first part of the trilogy the author dealt with the Spanish Civil War and the years of the Franco regime in a very accessible and personal way. From your review I can’t really tell if this is also the case in The Angel’s Game, but I hope so. I wonder what The Prisoner of Heaven, the third part, has to offer.

    LaGraziana @ Edith’s Miscellany

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    1. The Cemetery of Lost Books completely picqued my interest; I could envision it perfectly, almost like the scene where Harry Pottee goes to Hogwarts and the bridges swivel around way up high…but, of course, this would have far more books. Far more mystery.

      The civil war does not come into this novel, it’s much more focused on books and relationships between the characters. Especially the main character and the “Angel” who some speculate may be one and the same like an alter ego. That never really occurred to me until I read other reviews.

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  2. Love your photo 🙂 I’ve only read The Prisoner of Heaven in this trilogy, but I loved it to bits. I have the first two books on my shelf begging to be read. Perhaps its finally time. I love the way he describes Spain – makes it come alive.

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    1. Prisoner of Heaven is the one I haven’t read! In fact, I didn’t realize there was s trilogy (how dumb is that?!). Zafon does indeed make Spain come alive, even though this particular novel takes place in the 30’s or so, I imagine it is much the same. When I looked at the pictures of the streets he names in Barcelona they were so real. Which of course they are, I just love it when an author uses real places for his or her setting, like Ferrente did with Naples in her Neopolitan novels.

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  3. This is very intriguing and I love the quote: “I don’t trust people who say they have a lot of friends. It’s a sure sign that they really don’t know anyone.”

    I’ve avoided Spanish literature before, for no good reason, would you say this was a good place to start?

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    1. Yes, this is a good novel, although The Shadow of the Wind has earned higher praise. You might also like Revertes who writes suspenseful novels, or Javier Marias who is a master at relationships, or the women such as Isabel Allende who wrote The House of Spirits, one of my favorite books.

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  4. I loved The Shadow of the Wind, Bellezza, but I’ve put off reading this prequel for years b/c I’ve heard it was mediocre and over the top. Glad you differ–I already own the book, so I might as well read it someday. Cheers!

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    1. I don’t think this one is as good as Shadow of the Wind, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy reading it. Perhaps a couple of years between the two serves a purpose in not comparing them too closely; I loved Zafon’s imagination, the enigma present in this book, and several quotes hidden within the text that are well worth pondering. Now I have to pick up the final book in the trilogy. Someday.

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  5. I thoroughly enjoyed Shadow of the Wind but wasnt sure this one would be of the same standard so its lingered on the bookshelf for years. good to know i have some enjoyment in store when I get around to it

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