Tag-Archive for ◊ damnation ◊

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• 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, March 03rd, 2007

It’s Khaled Hosseini’s first novel published in 2003.

This is mainly a story of guilt and redemption:

The guilt of a 12 year old boy, Amir, who fails out of fear to stand up for his devoted servant and best friend, Hassan, while getting beaten and raped by bullies.

The relief of a redemption as an adult by going back to Kabul to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, whose parents had been shot by the Taliban, from the hands of the same bully who had become an important Taliban official.

Amir didn’t mind risking his life in order to escape from damnation and from being haunted by his disloyalty and cowardly actions.

He wanted to gain peace within himself and free his soul.

In the 4th line of part one in the book, Hosseini writes: “… That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realise I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”

Hosseini manages to cover many themes in his first book with great success. He writes about love, honour, deceit, fear, redemption and about politics and its devious ways.

He also covers the life of Afghani immigrants in the United States of America.

The very close and vivid historical background takes us from the last days of the monarchy to the Russian invasion, then the rule of the Taliban and all the political turmoil up until nowadays.

Additionally, the touching story and the sympathetic characters and how real they seem to be, tend to bring to mind “The Kite Runner” as a memoir rather than as a novel.

After completing the last page one can’t help but feel emotionally involved. As Isabel Allende puts it so succinctly: “This is one of those unforgettable stories that stay with you for years … It is so powerful that for a long time everything I read after seemed bland.”

The strange thing is that Hosseini went back to Kabul after he wrote “The Kite Runner” and saw Kabul through the same eyes and memories of Amir who went back after 20 years absence.

Hosseini writes about it in the San Francisco Chronicle of August 10th 2003. The title is: “Following Amir – A Trip To Afghanistan In Which Life Imitates Art”.

After reading “The Kite Runner” I couldn’t help but finding some analogies with “The Shadow Of The Wind” by Zafon. To mention a few:

* The corrupted, sadistic, vengeful inspector Fumero and the sadistic, corrupted vengeful Taliban official, Assef.

* In “The Shadow Of The Wind” the book ends the way it started by Daniel taking his son, Julian, to the cemetery of forgotten books, like how Daniel, a few years earlier, was taken by his own father to the same place to choose a book.
By comparison, in “The Kite Runner” the book ends by Amir taking Hassan’s son, Sohrab, to a kite-flying competition, and finds himself repeating to Sohrab the same words that Hassan told him a few years previously while running after the kite “For you a thousand times over”.

I’d like to end with these few words that Rahim Khan wrote to his friend Amir: “… I want you to understand that good, real good, was born out of your father’s remorse. Sometimes I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir Jan, when guilt leads to good.” Then referring to Amir, he said: “There is a way to be good again, he’d said. A way to end the cycle. With a little boy. An orphan. Hassan’s son. Somewhere in Kabul.”