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Literature / The Shadow of the Wind

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The Shadow of the Wind is a 2001 best-selling mystery novel by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Set in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War, the story follows Daniel, who, as a young boy, discovers a long-forgotten book in a secret library entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Daniel tries to seek out other books by the author, but can find nothing and no information on Carax himself. Then he hears stories of a strange man calling himself Lain Coubert, the name of the devil in Carax's book, who is seeking out and burning all copies of the mysterious author's novels.

The novel became retroactively the first installment of the loose tetralogy known as The Cementary of Forgotten Books, being followed by The Angel's Game in 2008.


This book contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Miquel Moliner.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Fermín Romero de Torres reveals this name is an alias, but we never do find out his real name. A newspaper in the novel, gives his name as Antonio José Gutiérrez Alcayete, and given the newspaper gets his informations from Fumero, it could actually be the real one - in fact, the article bills the guy named Alcayete from the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, which is precisely the place Fermín himself mentions later as his native land. However, as mentioned above, no confirmation is given.
    • It's also implied that at least some of Fermín's most outrageous claims are true, as Fumero reveals Fermín lived really in Cuba and was in contact with the time's upper class just as he claims, but not much is clarified about it. That he is a former spy, at the very least, turns out to be very true.
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  • Animal Motifs: Fumero is associated with insects: cold, calculating, heartless.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Tomás Aguilar devotes his time to building things like the "aerostatic dart." Daniel points this out.
  • Babies Ever After: Daniel and Bea's son. Fermín as well ended with four kids.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Fructuós Gelabert was a real-life pioneering film maker from Barcelona that made what is considered the first Spanish movie with a plot. According to the book, he funded this by getting paid by eccentric millionaire Jausà in exchange of filming his mansion so he can catch the spirit of his cuban lover After Jausà disapears, he gets a huge check from Mr. Aldaya to never mention the matter again.
  • Big Eater: Fermín, despite being described as underweight, has an incredible appetite.
  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: Santa Lucia's Asylum. Where all the old homless (and sometimes mad) people of Barcelona end.
  • Bookends: A Zafón trademark, along with the First-Person Smartass narrative.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Julián and Nuria's friendship has shades of this, particularly their time together in France.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Julián and Penélope fall in love, but they turn out to be half-siblings from their father's side.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Montblanc Pen Daniel gets as a birthday present on his sixteenth birthday.
    • The Sugus candy that Fermín gives Daniel to calm him down.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Fermín himself is introduced just as a homeless man asking Daniel to let him enter the house to avoid the rain. And then helping him after he is beaten up. He ended being hired by Daniel's father in the following chapters.
    • In one chapter Daniel recounts how he met his friend Tomás when Daniel insulted his sister Beatriz and Tomás punched him. She ended having a larger role on the story than her brother, ending as Daniel's romantic interest and eventual wife.
    • While Daniel and Fermín where investigating, they stopped in a restaurant where a man was impressed by how much Fermín could eat, and was then seen on their way back in the train laughing at Fermín discussing with some nuns. He turned out to be one of Fumero's henchmen, Palacios, that was following them.
    • Fumero might be considered a retroactive one. When he first introduces himself, he shows his ID that gives his full name as Francisco Javier Fumero. So if you pay attention you might not be taken by surprise that one of Julian former school friends was named Javier
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Fermín is covered in scars that are revealed to be the result of this.
  • Continuity Drift:
    • Fumero's second surname is initially shown to be Almuñiz, but it is later given as Sotoceballos. There's seemingly no reason for him to change in-universe his second surname yet not his first (after all, his father was almost as much of an asshole as his mother), and it is never mentioned.
    • The letter that Daniel finds early in the novel, the one that Penélope wrote sincerely to Julián, describes events in a way that becomes incompatible with the later recollection of them. For instance, Penélope claims she repeatedly asked Miquel for Julián's whereabouts after the latter escaped, despite being later explicitly shown that she died uncommunicated after his fugue and could not talk to or meet Miquel before her death.
  • Creepy Child: Inspector Fumero, naturally, who used to capture cats and pigeons and torture them for hours. Julián was a milder version.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Fermín has obviously story with the police, sporting even torture scars. Towards the end of the novel, he eventually breaks down and tells Daniel his story. He was a Republican spy who was arrested trying to smuggle his superiors in the Generalitat out of the country, after which he was tortured by Fumero and abandoned in the ciy. After being rescued and healed by a widow, he tried to return to Cuba, but was arrested again and spent years entering and exiting the Modelo jail as a homeless until encountering Daniel.
  • Death by Childbirth: Julián's lover dies in childbirth.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The casual mistreatment of women which was true during the fifties in Spain. One older (and even more dissonant) woman talking about Julian's dad says that while she understand that a man must hit his wife sometimes for her to obey him, he just hit her out of nowhere.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Julián, after finding out that Penélope died, even worse is that she died with their child as the gravestone marks.
  • Development Hell: In-Universe. Master Neri, Clara's Piano teacher, has been composing a symphony for some time. It remained in that stage during all the years that Daniel visited Clara. Ten years after the story, we are told he is still working on it.
  • Disabled Love Interest: Clara, Gustavo Barcelo's blind niece, was the object of Daniel's teenaged affections.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mr. Aldaya decided to jump from his ship and being eaten by sharks on his way to Argentina.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Daniel's second surname is Martín, which would be later retconned as Gispert in the next book.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
    • Daniel ends with a caring wife and a lovely child ten years after the story. And he only needed to be beaten up twice, scared by a weird man, being threatened by the goverment, and be shot to get it.
    • Even Julián gets his will to live restored by Daniel, and gets to start writing again.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: When Daniel and Fermín goes to San Gabriel to look into Julian's past, the first priest they encounter there happens to be a former friend of him. And they were also friends with Fumero.
  • Fake Nationality: In-Universe. At one point before the story, Fermín presents himself as being Cuban.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Barceló is an great admirer of the XIX century, to the point of dressing in the old-fashioned style and using a monocle and pipe, both for show.
  • Framing Device: A significant part of Julián and Miquel's story is told through Nuria's letter to Daniel (which was sent after she was murdered.)
  • Freudian Excuse: Literally: according to Miquel, Fumero told him that his mother abused him sexually, which in his opinion may explain everything which came after.
  • Full-Name Basis: Fermín Romero de Torres. When Daniel mentions him, nine out of ten would be by his full name.
  • Genius Bruiser, Gentle Giant: Both apply to Tomás Aguilar
  • Give Me a Sword: In the final fight Fumero lost his gun during a fight with Julian and couldn't find it when he got the upper hand. So he ordered his subordinate Palacios to hand him his gun. But he refused.
  • Happily Married: both Daniel and Fermín ended like this with their respective interests
  • Heel–Face Turn: Palacios refusing to give his gun to Fumero for killing Daniel.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Daniel for Beatriz.
  • Heroic Bastard: Julián Carax was Ricardo Aldaya's son (and therefore Jorge and Penélope's half-brother).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Miquel Moliner sacrifices himself for Julián by pretending to be him and shooting two police officers.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Miquel and Julián seemed to be this, although it's more apparent on Miquel's side.
  • High-Class Glass: Barceló, as part of his admiration for the XIX century.
  • Historical Domain Character: Franco's shadow can be felt all over the book.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Rociíto proves to be one at the end of the story.
  • Hospital Epilogue: The last chapter of the book. Everyone is at the hospital visiting Daniel after he needed to be revived.
  • I Have Many Names: Fermín. We know that that's not his name. And Fumero at one point calls him his "friend of the thousand names."
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Daniel gets one from Tomás when he starts seeing his sister.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: A common theme on the book.
    • Don Ricardo thought his son Jorge didn't had the character to succeed him, which drove him to search for his illegitimate son, Julián.
    • Mr Aguilar actually instructed Tomás' tutors to act as if he were stupid.
    • This is just one of the many layers of friction between Don Antoni and his son Julián.
    • When the Aldayas' fortune began to go down, some people believed that Don Ricardo was just an idiot that wasted what his father founded.
    • Nuria's former boss, Cabestany, said that his son would bankrupt his Publisher House in six months after his death. She said he was really optimistic, it took two months.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Nuria is described many times throughout the novel as very attractive, even in her older years; she is even hit on and sexually harassed by her crooked new boss.
  • I Owe You My Life: Fermín will do anything he can for Daniel and his father as they have taken him in from the street and gave him a job, making him a respectable citizen again.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: A variant with Julián Carax, who, after his Despair Event Horizon, takes on the name of Laín Coubert, a character he himself created.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Fermín to Bernarda.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Julián gets Penelope pregnant the first time they have sex, same goes for Daniel and Bea.
  • The Lost Lenore: Penélope, for Julián.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Fumero first attempt to murder someone was inspired by unrequited love.
  • Love Martyr: Nuria Monfort for Julián Carax, especially after his transformation into Laín Coubert. It doesn't work.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Fermín, who, after being severely beaten by Inspector Fumero, recovers rapidly and immediately starts groping the nurse.
    • Also Julián Carax, who survives having all his skin burnt off.
  • Magical Realism: Aldaya's house is haunted but nothing comes out of it.
  • Malaproper:
    • La Bernarda. She believes that Barceló's agnosticism is some kind of illness in his throat.
    • When Fermín explains to Rociíto that he hasn't "visited" her as frequently is because of monogamy. She responds that maybe some penicillin might help with that.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "The day I die, all that was once mine will be yours..." "...except your dreams." Between Julián and Miquel, both as children, and then moments before Miquel dies.
    • And again between Daniel and his son, at the end of the book, mirroring the very first chapter.
  • Mind Screw: Thanks to multiple Reveals that leave out some important particular. Zafón does it with every single novel he writes.
  • Mirror Monster: As a child, Julián made up stories that he had a sister who lived in hell and came to visit him through the mirror.
  • Morality Chain: When Julián finds out Penélope died years ago, his world falls apart and he starts burning his own books. Until Daniel appears in his life.
  • Morality Pet: Daniel to Julián who sees himself and another chance at life in him.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Fumero tried to do this to Julián.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Daniel ends in the end of two of these. Fermín also gets one from Fumero.
  • Non-Action Guy: Fermín is a former spy, but he definitely doesn't have a 007 hand-to-hand training.
  • No Name Given: Fermín Romero de Torres is an alias, of course. We never do find out his real name. A newspaper in the novel gives his name as Antonio José Gutiérrez Alcayete. Given the newspaper gets his informations from Fumero, it could actually be the real one - in fact, the article bills the guy named Alcayete from Cáceres, Extremadura, which is precisely the place Fermín himself mentions later as his native land.
  • Nouveau Riche: A chapter talks about the industrial period in Barcelona, and the families that got rich because of that.
  • Older Than They Look: If the info about Fermín given in newspapers is true, which is implied to be, he's 51 by this point of the story. As The Angel's Game establishes Daniel was born when his father was in his early thirties, this means Fermín is around the same age as Mr. Sempere, who is described as and behaves like a significantly older man in both books. (Of course, this could also mean that Mr. Sempere is prematurely aged due to all the drama his life.)
  • Plot Parallel: There are plenty of parallels between the stories of Julián and Daniel.
  • Posthumous Character: Guess who? Subverted with Julián, who turns out to be still alive. Nuria Monfort is a straighter example. And also Miquel
  • Primal Scene: Daniel, wanting to make sure that Clara is safe, ended interrupting one of her "classes" with master Neri. This earns Daniel his first beatdown of the book.
  • Really Gets Around: Fermín is a mild version of this, he flirts with every woman he sees, but has stayed monogamous since he met Bernarda.
  • The Reveal: the identity of Laìn Coubert is quite shocking, especially after the author spent most of the book trying to make the reader think it was Jorge Aldaya.
  • Romantic False Lead: Clara is introduced as Daniel's love interest in the story, but after the Primal Scene she pretty much disappears from the story, only making a couple of brief appearances.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Julián's childhood room is covered in crosses and Catholic symbols, though it's his father, not him, who did it.
  • Running Gag: Any drink that Fermín prepares tastes like diesel.
  • Shipper on Deck: Both Fermín and Mr. Sempere are really glad of Daniel's "date" with Bea.
  • Shout-Out: Barceló referenced Pygmalion when he hired Bernarda. Even stating that she would be his Eliza, and he would be her Prof. Higgings.
  • Snow Means Death: During the last part of the story a strange snowstorm hits Barcelona out of nowhere. And is during this storm that both Daniel and Fumero died. (But Daniel gets better).
  • Stalker with a Crush: Francisco Javier Fumero used to be one for Penélope Aldaya.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Julián and Penélope fall in love with each other, but they only get one night together before he is forced to flee Barcelona because of the wrath of her father, in the end she dies at childbirth.
    • Daniel and Bea, since she is set to marry a soldier as soon as he returns from service, despite their growing feelings for each other, and the disapproval of her father for Daniel. Subverted Trope as at the end Daniel and Bea do get married.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Daniel says that finding The Shadow of the Wind in the cemetery felt like the book was actually waiting for him since before he was even born. When Beatriz chooses a book to take out, she says the exact same thing.
  • Surprise Incest: Julián doesn't know that Penélope is his half-sister.
  • That Man Is Dead:
    • Late in the book we confirm that Fermín Romero de Torres is not the man's real name. But he confesses to Daniel that it might as well be now, saying that the other man was tortured to death in Montjüic.
    • Lain Coubert character has shades of this as well. Not only he doesn't want to remember anything about his previous life, but wants to erase it as well by burning his books.
  • Tragic Monster: Laín Coubert.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Again, Fumero, who always seems to be on the winning side. He falls from grace as he dies and his plaque is now hidden behind the soda machine at the police station.
  • Wham Line:
    • "In seven days I will be dead."
    • "Julián and Penélope are siblings."
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • Jorge Aldaya and Julián used to be best friends in school, but after the latter flees Barcelona after his affair with Penélope, Jorge's sister, is discovered, they loose all contact; then after his family's name falls into ruin, Jorge's father makes him swear to kill Julián to avenge their family.
    • Mirroring the above example, Daniél and Tomás are best friends until the former gets involved with the latter's sister, Bea; by the end of the book their friendship has been damaged and Tomás goes on to live in Germany, never speaking with Daniél again.


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