Barcelona in a book
Have you ever felt in love with a city just by reading a book?
This is exactly the goal that Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a Spanish writer, tries to reach through his first book “The Shadow of the Wind” : he wants us to love Barcelona. The book is characterized by an elaborate gothic style that fits for the mystical Barcelona Zafón describes; as a matter of fact the city is not just a background, but one of the main characters.
The plot of “The Shadow of the Wind” is about a young boy , Daniel Sempere, who lives in Barcelona with his father, the owner of a second-hand books shop. One day the father decides to bring Daniel at the so called Cemetery of the Forgotten books, a huge book store where Daniel is supposed to choose a book, he will take care of for the rest of his life. From this moment a series of events, connected to the book he picks, will bring Daniel –and us, of course!- through the amazing Barcelona always shrouded in mystery and melancholy, unusually for the vital city we know as it is nowadays – in fact, the story develops in the postwar period and the memory of the Spanish Civil War is still really vivid-.
If you want to follow an alternative itinerary on the footsteps of his main character, Daniel, below you can find some of the places in which Zafón sets his adventures.
Carrer de l’Arc del Teatre
It is a tiny street near the Boquería Market and it is exactly where the story begins, because there, the author places the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books. It is probably the most important and recurring setting along the plot, but the Cemetery is a made-up place even if you can actually find the front door described by Zafón with the devil shaped knocker.
Portal de l’Angel
Right near the Avinguda del Portal de l’Angel, one of the most popular streets where tourists use to go shopping, there is Calle Ana where the author locates the famous Sempere’s bookshop, often recurring along the story.
El Born District
The magic of Zafón gets until El Born District in a shop of aspiring wizards, “El Rei de la Màgia” located in Carrer de la Princesa : come in and enjoy your time among enchanted cards, games for illusionists and wizard hats!
Going into the district you can have a break at “El Xampaniet”, one of the most popular bars where to appreciate traditional tapas and mentioned in the book as well. Furthermore, in El Born you can find Picasso Museum, where the Hospice of Saint Lucy is located in the book.
Here you can find Plaça Reial, already one of the most known places in Barcelona, it has been made more popular thanks to the success of Zafón’s book. Speaking of, it is exactly here that Clara, the sightless girl Daniel falls in love with, lives. In the same district you can find “Els Cuatre Gats”, nowadays the core of the cultural and social life of Barcelonans, founded in 1800 it was frequented by Picasso too. In this restaurant Daniel meets an antique dealer with whom he tries to comment the book he had chosen at the Cemetery.
On the higher section of Barcelona it is placed the cemetery of the city, there Daniel goes to visit his mother’s grave. Through Daniel’s eyes we can feel the atmosphere of the modern and wealthy part of the city, where he can see sumptuous buildings and houses surrounded by the green spaces. You can get there with an old and typical blue tram, Daniel takes to reach the top of the Hill too.
Whether you have already been in Barcelona or it is the first time you are planning your trip, it could be an original idea to explore a place through the hints of a book. For sure the places I have suggested could be just the starting point of your customized itinerary to fall in love with the city!
After all as Zafón himself says Barcelona is a magic city that gets under your skin and steal your soul, before you can even realize it.