The OF Blog: A sneak peek

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A sneak peek

Sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening (NB: tonight), a short review of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's El Juego del Ángel will go live on Amazon. Included with that review, which has two excerpts from the novel that I translated, will likely appear in some form (NB: Linked to here) a translation of an interview conducted by the Spanish newspaper El País a few weeks ago that I and a friend of mine did tonight. Originally, I had another interview in mind, but it was very lengthy and I abandoned it about 1/3 into it. However, this interview done with El Cultural provides a few moments that will make the enjoyment of the El País piece even greater, so here is what I completed:

Interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Conducted by Nuria Azancot for El Cultural on 10 April 2008
Translated from the Spanish by myself

El Juego del Ángel is an independent novel, with its own story and its own world, but with many elements of The Shadow of the Wind.”

Seven years - and 10 million copies sold in 50 countries - after The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Barcelona, 1964) publishes on April 17 El Juego del Ángel (Planeta), one of the most sought-after titles recently by readers. In advance of the book’s world premiere in the Liceo de Barcelona the following Wednesday (the publisher is going to charter an airplane exclusively to transport the journalists from Madrid), the writer shares with us, from his refuge in Los Angeles, some of the keys to the book. For example, that “it is a port of entry to a literary universe that increases and enriches with each reading, be what it may be the order in which one reads the novels.” He also confesses that he must disappear “a little” from the world “because I have the bad misfortune of distracting myself easily,” although in reality, he says, the media buzz, the pressure from the favorable critics, the awards and the thousands of interviews in all the world “one can cure them with a pair of aspirin and a little nap. Try it.”

It seems that in these moments the only one keeping calm is Ruiz Zafón himself, which fires off good-naturedly his irony with the rapidity of Billy the Kid and the intelligent sarcasm of Oscar Wilde, over all the hour of speaking of the bad fame of the sales. He also reflects on his work: the end of stories, “I scarely am leaving the tunnel and turning to place things in perspective, true.”

It is certain that there are many rumors which have circulated over his new novel, El Juego del Ángel, accentuated by the opacity of Planeta, which has jealously safeguarded the secret. The critic has not been able still to read it because Ruiz Zafón has wanted that it be the readers that made The Shadow of the Wind triumph by word of mouth have the first word. Before, however, he acceded to give some clues regarding the book:

Does it have such a relation as they say with The Shadow of the Wind? Are we going to encounter some of its characters perhaps?

It has and it doesn’t have. Let me explain: It is an independent novel, with its own story and its own world, but the readers which have read The Shadow of the Wind...they will encounter in it many elements which they’ll be able to connect and which I believe adds an additional level of enjoyment and intensity to the reading. Likewise it can succeed with readers who have not read The Shadow of the Wind and, reading El Juego del Ángel feel themselves tempted to submerge themselves in The Shadow of the Wind. As to whether we are going to encounter in its pages some [reoccurring] characters: Yes, although maybe not of the mode in which we hope. There is behind the cycle of four novels located in the Barcelona of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books the idea that each one of those books be a port of entry to a literary universe which grows and enriches with each reading, be what may be the order in which one reads the novels or although one only reads two or three.

For now, the only thing that is known about the novel is what is posted on your webpage: that it is set in the Barcelona of the 1920s, and that in it one “returns to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and submerges us anew in its fascinating universe.” Are they mistaken those who assure [us] that with such mystery you in reality have wanted to defend the readers? Do you really find them/us so undefended?

Much less was known of The Shadow of the Wind when it was published. One discovers the books while reading, enjoyment comes from the literary experience, not in two-line summaries. The readers are sufficiently more intelligent than all that and they defend themselves by themselves.

Which have been the biggest problems that you have encountered from the moment you seated yourself in front of the computer, what has been the most complicated, to flee from the media buzz, conquering the fear of the blank page, not surpassing the previous work, the comparisons perhaps?

The biggest problem has been to find the time and the necessary concentration in order to do the best possible job. The rest of the considerations sound very melodramatic but I myself fear they are more in the sight of the observer than in the practical reality of each day.

Surely, it ought to be difficult to surpass praise like that of The Washington Post: “Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind.” How do you obtain that?

A pair of aspirin and a little nap. Never fails. Try it.

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