Saturday, November 20, 2010

Which Carlos Ruiz Zafon novel is better?

In my creative writing class, I have the students choose novels to read from a handful of my favorites. My process in choosing the books was pretty subjective and selfish. I made a list of my favorite books, then chose the ones that I find to be the best examples of good writing, for different reasons. The students read these novels and then break into roles, some examining word choice, some syntax, some plot, some character, some setting, etc., then report on what the book has taught them about being a writer.

One of the books on the list is Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. I love Zafon's rich, vibrant prose and descriptions of setting most of all, but the guy can certainly tell a great story. Because I teach high school, and in a relatively conservative community, I didn't choose Zafon's next novel, the prequel to The Shadows of the Wind, called The Angel's Game. In a way it would be a far more appropriate book for a creative writing class. While Shadow is all about being a reader and lover of books, Angel's is about being a writer. Unfortunately, it's also about how being a writer can be a kind of torture that can drive you to madness and murder, and if that weren't enough to raise the hackles of some parents, the protagonist may or may not have made a deal with the devil himself. Still, as I sit here and think about it, it might be the better book. I'm interested to know, from folks who've read both, which is the better of the two in your opinion? You can vote in a simple poll below, but I'd also like to hear some explanation in the comments. Of course, it's likely that no one who comes across this page will have read both books, but if you can't vote here, take that as a sign that you have one or two books to run out and buy. Zafon is a master craftsmen at the very least, so get yourself a copy of each of these novels and give the pair to some friends at Christmas, too. They will thank you profusely.


Anonymous said...

Hi, there. Greetings from an american living in Zafon's hometown of Barcelona! I think you're very wise in using his works to teach young people about the art of writing. I also believe the angel's game to be even superior to the shadow of the wind, although I've noticed that many readers find it too complex, too sinister and demanding more of them than the shadow, therefore they tend to prefer the sweeter, more romantic earlier novel. I believe both of them to be masterpieces and I suggest you explore also zafon's previous titles, the novels he wrote for young adults in the 90s. Cheers!

Benjamin Gorman said...

You are so lucky to live in Barcelona. I was there last summer. Beautiful city, friendly people. I loved it.

I didn't know Zafon wrote YA fiction. Do you know if any has been translated into English? I'll do some looking myself. Even if it hasn't been yet, I can read in Spanish (just more slowly) and I have lots of students whose primary language is Spanish, so that might be a good avenue for some quality YA lit for them. Thanks for the recommendation!

Benjamin Gorman said...

The Prince of Mist has been translated. It's now on my Christmas list. Again, thanks!

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