Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the only man with the balls to write a dark and shadowy Barcelona. I have no way of proving if that is true but I’m pretty confident I could persuade most to agree that when one thinks of Barcelona: ‘dark’ is not the first word that comes to mind. On my copy of the book, this novel is described as a ‘Thriller.’ Yeah maybe. What it is, in fact, is a fusion of humour, gothic horror, and according to Zafón himself a “feel-good novel.” Carlos knows… because this really did make me feel good, after making me feel all sorts of awful but I won’t speak about that. I devoured all 500+ pages in a matter of days. I’m a slow reader but by abandoning all my responsibilities, showering less, and taking the book with me to the bathroom; I was done reading in less than a week. And I regret nothing! Except that I didn’t read it sooner, thinking it was just another generic work of popular fiction. And someone may disagree, although I don’t know of many who would, but this is anything but generic.
“Gilbert prided himself on being an unusually well-informed man. No doubt the sun did too. No doubt the sun knew why the clouds formed and why the wind blew and why the lizards basked in its warmth, and all this immense knowledge made the sun gay and bright, full of trust and affection for mankind. But there were shut-away worlds, full of mistrust and hate, and it was about this side that Makhaya was particularly well informed.” (p. 89)
“How to explain to the earth that it was more functional as a vegetable patch than a flower garden, just as factories were more functional than schools and boys were more functional as weapons than as humans.”
― Kamila Shamsie,
In all its optimism of the 90’s this story speaks in favour of hybridity and fluidity of identity. To not allow ourselves or others to put us in boxes of race, class or gender; to just be anything you want at any given moment and not be constrained or expect such things of others. But here, the characters only find this freedom in drugs and alcohol. The most intoxicated are the most liberated because they are too mentally disengaged from societal structures to participate in dogma or obligations.
I usually don’t like to read books that simply by their title suggest there will be tears but this text takes a well known subject and turns it into an original piece of literature. Based on the real story of Ivan Mishukov, the narrative follows little Romochka and his pack around Moscow as they learn to provide for their little family.
Note: when referencing the book i use the following text.
This is a short but powerful read. Toni Morrison, in her attempt to write outside the stereotypes of her race (as she explains in her essay ‘Home’ in ‘The House that Race Built’), she puts together a narrative that is both fictional and historical with a unique perspective on slavery. In just 176 pages she covers a wide scope that punches quite a kick.