I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of Barcelona trapped beneath the ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Monica in a wreath of liquid copper.
“Daniel, you musn’t tell anyone what you are about to see today,” my father warned. “Not even your friend Tomas. No one.”
“Not even Mommy?”
My father sighed, hiding behind the sad smile that followed him like a shadow through life.
“Of course you can tell her,” he answered, heavyhearted. “We keep no secrets from her. You can tell her everything.”
Shortly after the Civil War, an outbreak of cholera had taken my mother away. We buried her in Montjuic on my fourth birthday. I can only recall that it rained all day and night, and that when I asked my father whether heaven was crying, he couldn’t bring himself to reply. Six years later my mother’s absence remained in the air around us, a deafening silence that I had not yet learned to stifle with words.
From, The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
One of the greatest names of any place in any novel is Zafon’s “Cemetery of Forgotten Books.” What images that name summons. It is of course the name of a used book store where ancient and lost and out of print books are rescued and given another chance to find welcome in some book lover’s personal library.
The Shadow of the Wind is about a young boy, Daniel Sempere, whose father, himself a bookshop owner, takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books on his tenth birthday to pick out whatever book he chooses. Daniel’s selection takes him then on a journey of remarkable experiences centered on the book and its author.
He encounters sleazy and shadowy figures, thieves and criminals, downtrodden and abused victims, and beautiful but out of his reach women who break his heart and teach him that life is often not fair.
He learns that brutal, tyrannical people have no appreciation for books. Their learning is all underhanded and driven by selfish motives.
Zafon’s novel was an international bestseller and remains popular since it was first published in 2001.