Carlos Ruiz Zafón at the Seattle Public Library

Carlo Ruiz Zafon the Spanish author of the Shadow of the Wind and the Angel’s Game was at the Seattle Public Library on Friday June 26th. Zafón, for those who don’t know, is the largest selling author in Spanish history after Cervantes. He is a world wide phenomenon and auditorium was packed and the line for the book signing was huge. As with best sellers in literary circles there is always a little stand-offishness. During the moderated talk you got the sense that Zafón has heard the criticisms, but isn’t that concerned about them. He writes what he writes and it works for him. Having read Shadow of the Wind, I wouldn’t call him high literature, but he writes well and the first 350 pages are really good. And the idea of a library of forgotten books, where the last remaining copy of a book goes to reside is magical.It is just too bad he couldn’t quite finish it convincingly. Of course, having his sales must help.

He talked of the books he likes, which is a wide range of 19th century novelists such as Dickens and Tolstoy, but also modern books, and histories and anything else that he is interested in. His approach to translation in English is interesting and sounds like a lot of work. Since he is fluent in English he has the luxury of working with the translator and almost rewriting the book in English, which makes, not some much for an authentic translation, but one that is true to the author’s wishes.

He is interesting talker and given a question can go on for five minutes without stopping. And I think what sets him apart from the really pointless beach reads that hit the best seller lists is that he is genuinely interested in literature and even if his works are not the best works in Spanish, they do help install an interest in reading in the reader.