Tag-Archive for ◊ adults ◊

Author:
• Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Carlos Ruiz Zafon was born in Barcelona in 1964. He started his writing career with four fiction books for young adults and in 1993 was awarded the Spanish Edebé literary prize for one of them: The Prince of Mist.

His first fiction for adults and big success, The Shadow of the Wind, was published in 2002 and translated into several languages. Zafon, also a screen writer, has been living in Los Angeles since 1993, but has kept his house in Barcelona.

The Angel’s Game, published in Spanish in 2008 and in English in 2009 and translated into several other languages, is reminiscent of Zafon’s first successful novel, The Shadow of the Wind. The two books have in common the Gothic atmosphere, the world of literature which involves the love of books and the book-selling universe, plus the cemetery of forgotten books.

The story, charmingly and humorously narrated with sarcasm in parts by the leading character, David Martin, is set in Barcelona. It starts in 1917 and ends in 1945, but the main series of events take place in the 1920s.

David Martin, born into a poor family, had a tormented childhood with a violent father and a mother who abandoned him. He found solace in books and became a book-lover and an ardent reader at an early age. Later he became an acclaimed writer because of his sensational stories of the doomed citizens of Barcelona. Just like Zafon, Martin was influenced by the nineteenth century writers and especially his favourite English novelist, Charles Dickens, who portrayed destitute Londoners and wrote about the importance of reforming the society of his time.

Martin was approached by a mysterious recluse French publisher, Andreas Corelli, who made him a financial offer he couldn’t refuse. He had to write a book like no other, a book about a new religion, a book that will take hold of the populace’s heart and mind. Martin accepted the deal without suspecting that he was selling his soul to the devil, it is a Faustian bargain with all it entailed, a high price to pay. Martin finds himself going through a dark labyrinth of an eerie universe involving tragic intrigues, murders and deceptions, in a supernatural environment of mysterious adventures and unfulfilled tragic romance.

The Angel’s Game is a book about the power of books and their consequences on some people’s lives, a lyric apologia for books, book reading and book writing. It is a densely dark novel about good and evil with regard to the human soul. A highly complex plot, teeming with characters and events, evolving in a supernatural world.

Despite the lengthy and wearisome theological debates between Martin and Corelli and the disappointingly melodramatic rushed epilogue, The Angel’s Game remains an enthralling novel conceived with intensely vivid imagination. The rich, detailed description of the City of Barcelona gives some depth to the story and makes the city stand out as another character in the novel.

In one of his interviews, Zafon has mentioned that The Shadow of The Wind is about redemption and the Angel’s Game is about damnation. Then he stressed that “our choices make us who we are”. It is up to any person to decide if he wants to think for himself or if he would rather surrender to other people’s beliefs.

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Author:
• Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Niccolo Ammaniti was born in Rome in 1966. He studied at Liceo Classico and then at university where he read biology. He quitted university before obtaining a degree and decided to breed fish in his bedroom in twelve aquariums containing two thousand litres of water, as a business, in order to earn some money.

Ammaniti wrote his first novel “Branchie” in 1994 and in 1995 published an essay titled “Nel nome del figlio”. In 1996 a collection of short stories called “Fango” came out. As for his great rural novel “Ti prendo e ti porto via” which was written in Scotland during his six months there, it was published in 1999. He then went to the United States in 2001 in order to write the script for an American production called “Gone Bad”. His third novel, “I’m Not Scared” (Io non ho paura) was published in Italy in 2001. Niccolo Ammaniti is the youngest ever winner, at the age of 34, of the prestigious Viareggio-Repaci prize for his novel “I’m Not Scared”, which has been his biggest success so far.

“I’m Not Scared”became a best-seller in Italy for months, and was translated into 20 languages. It was also made into a feature film directed by Gabriele Salvatores, the Academy-award winning director of “Mediterraneo”. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2003. Niccolo Ammanity, who lives in Italy, mentioned that he is longing to be a film director, and that his novel “I’m Not Scared” was originally conceived as a film project.

In “I’m Not Scared”a thirty year-old Michele remembers a shocking episode from his childhood in the very hot summer of 1978, twenty years ago in Aqua Traverse, an isolated community living in a hamlet of five houses in the middle of wheat fields, in an unidentified poor region in southern Italy, a nine year-old boy Michele discovers a horrifying secret, unbearable for his age, which is going to change his whole life. He will be thrown into adulthood when he loses his innocence and his faith in the adults around him,and realises that those closest to him are not what he thought they were. And through finding out adult cruelty in kidnapping a child his own age and demanding a ransom from his parents. Michele is put through a dilemma, whether to keep his promise to his father by not going back to see Filippo, or listen to his pure heroic nature. He is helpless and confused as a child and yet courageous and righteous as an adult. The complexity inherent in growing up.Having lost faith in his idealised father and mother and all grown ups surrounding him, he has to work things out by himself and act like a humanitarian hero.

The whole novel is narrated through the nine year-old Michele’s eyes, therefore the language is simple, the sentences short, the paragraphs brief and the image clear, which conveys strength and authenticity to the narration. The author writes with great accuracy the feeling of fear and fantasies of corpse-eaters, ghosts, monsters, and bogeymen that come out at night, which are part of everyday life of a child. Michele is intimidated, like the other children of the hamlet, by Skull (Antonio), who seems to have hold over them through fear and seems to take a sadistic pleasure in ordering his friends around and getting away with it. There is also the fear of Skull’s brother, Felice Natale, who is portrayed as a despicable character.

The story is very well constructed, Michele’s character springs to life while the adults are portrayed in a sketchy way. Ammaniti excelled in capturing with great precision, Michele’s childish thoughts and vocabulary.The story starts in a slow rhythm which conveys the stifling summer heat and also the isolation of the Aqua Traverse people. Nothing much seems to be happening, the children are glad to get together every day to go cycling in the middle of the wheat fields, happily, innocently and without any worries, away from the adults’ evil tension, kidnapping, blackmail and guns. Then comes the black side of the story, the dark black hole opposed to the sunny wheat fields, Michele’s terrible discovery which he keeps to himself. Then follows the tension and violent arguments among the adults which holds the suspense going strong à la Hitchcock, leading to the climax which carries the twist at the end.

Niccolo Ammaniti, a talented story-teller with vivid imagination, is considered one of the best novelists in Italy.