Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review: 'Der Fürst des Parnass' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


I spent the last week in Germany and obviously ended up in a bookstore. I bought Treasure Island for myself and when I turned around, my eye was caught by a cover that said Carlos Ruiz Zafon and had a sticker that said  '€5,-'. Naturally I had to buy it, devour it and now write a short review on it. And since the only synopsis on Goodreads is in German, I have tried to my hand at making my own. 
In 'Der Fürst des Parnass' (En. 'The Count of Parnass'), Zafon tells the story of the creation of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the creation of one of Spain's most famous work, Cervantes' 'Don Quixote de Mancha'. Along the way, we meet one of the first members of the book-loving Sempere family and the terrifying Corelli. 
Zafon wrote this book especially for this year's World Book Day and I'm not quite sure whether it has been translated into just German or whether there are other translations. Format wise it is a rather short novella. It is, or should be, common knowledge that I love everything that Zafon writes. This novella is written in exactly the same style; dark, sumptuous and elegant. Zafon has an incredible talent for writing atmosphere. I think this may be related to the fact that he began with writing scripts in which a writer has to create the atmosphere and setting out of action and dialogue, since it is the director who decides on scenery etc. usually. Whether it is a candle lit tavern or a dark alleyway, Zafon transports his readers into his world.

The plot is relatively simple. It is typically one of those World Book Day books, in which a short, simple story is told that is entertaining and grasps you but doesn't give you the depth you might usually expect from the author writing it. Just like all of Zafon's books, it can be read without having read his other books, but I imagine that not knowing his canon of novels leaves the reader quite unattached. It is too quick and short if one doesn't have the previous attachment to Zafon's Barcelona. Although I cared about Cervantes, to a certain extent, that is more because I know how important he was to the creation of the English novel and  because I enjoy Zafon's writing style, not because the story itself was that fascinating. There is excitement, tension and foreshadowing for later books, but on its own, Der Fürst des Parnass falls a bit short.

Overall, I give this novella...

3 Universes.

It is worth reading just for the way Zafon writes. It is always a pleasure to the eye and mind to read his stories and this novella is no exception. What this novella has done is made me excited for potentially more about the origin of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I desperately want to know when it became such a palace of literature.

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