The measure of a philistine

The measure of a philistine

Zafón’s bibliophile characters are often as opinionated as they are erudite, and have no truck with people who barely read.  I liked this summary dismissal. ‘… but he was the sort who can’t even read the size of his underpants.’ Source:...
Culling of books …

Culling of books …

I sometimes feel like this when we go to the flea market in Geneva and survey a lifetime’s worth of books chucked into banana boxes by the house clearance company sent to empty all trace of a life lived and ended.  When I find something I can cherish among the...
‘Write,’ he said

‘Write,’ he said

A fine parting injunction to a friend you are seeing off at the train station.  Julián did as he was told.   ‘Write,’ he said. ‘I’ll write to you as soon as I get there,’ answered Julián. ‘No.  Not to me.  Write books.  Not...
Book as mirror I

Book as mirror I

A great riposte, of course, and true to a large extent.  Having dismissed a book, it sometimes happens that I come back to it later, even decades later, and wonder at how absent I must have been at the previous encounter. This quotation is echoed much later in the...
Book as mirror II

Book as mirror II

One of the most reassuring and surprising insights I found in reading Harold Bloom’s literary criticism, was the realization that he wrote for a hidden audience of ‘great readers’ engaged in their own intimate rituals, and that, in this, I was less...
Television as Antichrist

Television as Antichrist

Again, one of the articulate, adorable and utterly opinionated characters in which Ruiz Zafón’s book abounds.  The doom-laden consequences of television didn’t quite pan out as disastrously, but the elaborate and colourful damnation of the poor machine is...
We exist while we are remembered

We exist while we are remembered

This theme captivates me and I have other quotations on the idea that we live for as long as someone remembers us.  The same applies to music, books, places, languages; they die when nobody remembers them. ‘He used to say that we exist as long as somebody...
Presents are for those who give

Presents are for those who give

A generous dismissal of a recipient’s need to feel worthy of a gift.  Ruiz Zafón’s book is full of generous characters and the presents and kindnesses they give. So, use this phrase the next time someone appears overwhelmed by your generosity, it might...
The pitfalls of childhood

The pitfalls of childhood

What a sad commentary on the wounds we inflict on children before they are equipped to comprehend what has happened and perhaps fend off its worst effects. ‘One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn’t have to understand something to feel it.  By...
Moth-ridden masterpieces

Moth-ridden masterpieces

The Shadow of the Wind assembles a posse of ‘bibliophile knights’ who hang out in cafés to save the moribund from extinction.  See also the dim view Barceló takes of people who haven’t mastered Latin on the shallow grounds that it is a dead language....
Tar-black skies

Tar-black skies

This struck me because it’s a rare sight, skies are rarely tar-black in or near cities.  But this is Barcelona and perhaps the emptiness of the sea at night allows some of its overarching sky to seep into the city’s airspace and blacken it like ink....
Technicolor-green fields

Technicolor-green fields

Fermín is a character who has done time as a tramp, and perhaps because of the hunger he’s suffered, he has an insatiable appetite for chocolate.  Living in Switzerland, I can testify as to the reality of its ‘impossibly blue lakes’ and...
A curse in its Sunday best

A curse in its Sunday best

May you be spared any such presence and any such curse.  Great phrasing though. ‘His presence was both funereal and incandescent, like a curse dressed in its Sunday best.’   Source: Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind, trans. Lucia Graves...
Truer than …

Truer than …

Reading the book in Barcelona, this phrase resonated as I’d discovered the simple snack you can order alongside your drink or tapas – tomato spread on white bread, pan con tomate.  Sounds boring but it’s just delicious. ‘… what I say is...

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