Thursday, February 3, 2022

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The City of Mist

This posthumous collection from Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow of the Wind comprises eleven stories, most never before published in English. The City of Mist is Ruiz Zafón’s tribute to the countless thousands of readers who joined him on the extraordinary journey through the mysterious gothic world of his beloved Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet.
A boy decides to become a writer when he discovers that his creative gifts capture the attentions of an aloof young beauty who has stolen his heart. A labyrinth-maker flees Constantinople to a plague-ridden Barcelona, with plans for building a library impervious to the destruction of time. A strange gentleman tempts Cervantes to write a book like no other, each page of which could prolong the life of the woman he loves. And a brilliant Catalan architect named Antoni Gaudí reluctantly agrees to cross the ocean to New York, a voyage that will determine the fate of an unfinished masterpiece.
Imaginative and beguiling, these and other stories in The City of Mist bring to life the mesmerising magic of their brilliant creator and invite us to enter the dream along with him.

Comment: This was one of the books I brought from the library the last time I went there. I'm still hoping they will be able to acquire the 4th installment of the wonderful series this author became famous for, but in the meantime, there is this books of short stories, with some of his remaining work which had not been  published before.

This book has a collection of 11 little stories, all set in Barcelona, and all somehow related to the cemetery of forgotten books. Sometimes the connection isn't obvious or that important, but it does feel like a little candy hidden somewhere for the reader to find.

As always, some stories had bigger impact than others, one or two were just two or three pages long, and through all of them we have the familiar author's style, especially when it comes to prose and whimsical little features. I've read some readers comment this is better appreciated if one had read the other books by the author, for this will feel like a treat, even the ones we might not like as much. For a new reader, perhaps the short length might help to give an idea but in my opinion, it's true mr Zafón was a very special writer and perhaps this might not be the best way to truly captivate someone not used to his style.

I'd say what I will remember the most about these 11 short stories is how much sadness all of them convey. The purpose is certainly to give a certain vibe and some stories are quite obvious magical realism, and not as much historical fiction, but in all of them we have the drama of impossible happy ends and the sadness of what could have been. It's also a little bit of a love story with the city of Barcelona, so dear to the author, and always cherished in his work.

Here is a list of the short stories and a small comment on each one of them:

"Blanca and the Departure"
A sad story of a friendship cut when the two friends must separate and which never comes back.

A pregnant woman is at the end of her strength, has her baby and her fate is as sad as it can be.

"A Young Lady from Barcelona" 
A man with no prospects finds a way to gain money with the help of his daughter, whose fate is as sad as it could have been avoidable.

"Rose of Fire" 
A man flees to Barcelona in hopes of protecting the city from harm and in the aftermath of a terrible fight, the idea to create the cemetery of forgotten books is born.

"The Prince of Parnassus" 
An imagined but thrilling what if scenario where Miguel de Cervantes found the inspiration and means to write his most known literary work.

"A Christmas Tale" 
A hermit asks his maid to find him a chess adversary once a year. This time, the choice wasn't a clever one...

"Alicia, at Dawn" 
A boy discovers an abandoned bombed building and someone living there. His actions regarding an object inside will have dire consequences.

"Men in Grey" 
A hit man is charged with killing another, older, hit man. However, it's his mentor and the protagonist thinks about the meaning of everything.

A man dreams of a kiss while being imprisoned.

"Gaudi in Manhattan"
If Gaudí were to have had an assistant on a journey to New York, this could have been the way it happened and the reason why his further work went the way it did.

"Two-Minute Apocalypse"
What dreams and possibilities can exist in one's mind when the end is near?

All said and done, these stories feel like magic in the author's lyrical prose. I think some might feel they are a little too whimsical but the author is known for his almost Gothic style, which he often included in the books too, even the most contemporary ones. The shorter stories certainly feel more like an episode than a story but our imagination can do the rest. 
Although these aren't all at the same level in terms of appreciation, they are all a little part of the author, whom we know is no longer among us. For fans, this can be seen as his last work, for those who aren't as dedicated to his work, it might be less appealing but no less magical.
Grade: 8/10

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