My Thoughts: The Angel’s Game

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Oui, he is the same author of The Shadow of the Wind. The Angel’s Game is a prequel to The Shadow, but was written after it. Nevertheless, by the order of events, none of the value is taken away by whichever you read first.


I don’t suppose I can avoid comparison between The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game. For one thing, I will say that Zafon did not disappoint me – but I didn’t exactly get what I was expecting either. The Angel’s Game was much darker and more sinister than The Shadow, with murkier characters to begin with that don’t seem to get any less murky by the end. Rather the opposite!

Though the same kind of impressive, twisting plot, gradually, beautifully and almost painfully unfolding story that was almost lost were employed, this book had more shades and shadows. (Isn’t it ironic?)

The characters were generally more unappealing than in The Shadow. Of course, I gather that was intentional; it was in line with the nature of the story. Nearly everyone appeared to have some curse or affliction, or be a traitor, witch or devil in disguise. There were, perhaps, only one or two characters with nearly pure souls. Even the main character was a cursed on, sometimes undeniably despicable – but perhaps it was only a reaction to all the other despicable people around him.

My favourite character, I think, was Isabella, a seventeen-year-old girl with the obstinacy of about ten mules put together, the drive of a horse and the aspiration to be a writer. Can you see why I identify? **wink**

One thing that I noticed different was that many of the most quotable (and some would perchance say wise) parts/sayings in the book were made by villains in The Angel’s Game and heroes in The Shadow of the Wind. It made me think about them a lot more before I inevitably highlighted them. But also, you know, the book was like 90% villains anyway.

From the only two books I’ve read, I’d say that Zafon really likes writing about writing. On an occasion when I was reading up on his own life, I discovered that he believes the novel is the supreme form of storytelling. Judging from the subject matter of his books, I’d say he’s a rather bold or daring character. Why? Because, very often, he’s highlighting the demons of being a writer or writing in general, or speaking through the voices of a certain crowd in the public – insulting the profession, or through some of my personal favourite characters, lamenting the impending death of the literary arts/culture, or paper books or reading in general. I believe this is what my literature teachers refer to as authorial intrusion.

The atmosphere of the books appeal to me. They are set in the earlier part of the twentieth century, which I think was a much more classically interesting time to live in, with cafés and bookshops and typewriters and stuff. (Or, in my continent’s history, kente, marriage at fourteen and being traded for gunpowder – but let’s not think about that.) Despite how recently these books were written, the settings are so authentic that I feel as if the author had been there, even though he was born way after. That’s the kind of imagination I wish to have.

To applaud the book’s shock factor, I appreciate that it’s a very elaborate mystery novel, but there are a number of supernatural aspects, and some scenes actually scared me, making me release expletives mentally.

On the whole, astounding novel.

Favourite quotes

  • Bring me a story I have not read before, and if I have read it, bring it to me so well written and narrated that I won’t even notice.
  • I proceeded to squeeze out everything I had inside me. I quarrelled with every word, every phrase and expression, every image and letter as if they were the last I was ever going to write.
  • Envy is the religion of the mediocre. It comforts them, it responds to the worries that gnaw at them, and finally it rots their souls, allowing them to believe these to be virtues. Such people are convinced that the doors of heaven will be opened only to poor wretches like themselves who go through life without leaving any trace but their threadbare attempts to belittle others and to exclude – and destroy if possible – those who, by the simple fact of their existence, show up their own poorness of spirit, mind and guts. Blessed be the one at whom the fools bark, because his soul will never belong to them.
  • You don’t know what thirst is till you drink for the first time.
  • Words and the mystery of their hidden science fascinated me, and I saw in them a key with which I could unlock a boundless world, a safe haven from that home, those streets and those troubled days in which even I could sense that only a limited fortune awaited me.
  • Everything in life is nonsense. It’s just a question of perspective.
  • You end up becoming what you see in the eyes of those you love.
  • Never underestimate a writer’s vanity, especially that of a mediocre writer.
  • It seems that in the advanced stages of stupidity, a lack of ideas is compensated for by an excess of ideologies.
  • I can’t die yet, doctor. Not yet. I have things to do. Afterwards I’ll have a whole lifetime in which to die.
  • This cures everything, except for stupidity, which is an epidemic on the rise.
  • All money is dirty. If it were clean, nobody would want it.
  • Normally, the more talent one has, the more one doubts it…And vice versa.
  • Natural talent is like an athlete’s strength. You can be born with more or less ability, but nobody can become an athlete just because he or she was born tall, or strong, or fast. What makes the athlete, or the artist, is the work, the vocation and the technique. The intelligence you are born with is just ammunition. To achieve something with it, you need to transform your mind into a high-precision weapon.
  • Every work of art is aggressive, Isabella. And every artist’s life is a small war or a large one, beginning with oneself and one’s limitations.
  • Poetry is written with tears, novels with blood and history with invisible ink.
  • What I’m searching for is the opposite of an intellectual, in other words, someone intelligent.
  • Why is it that the less one has to say, the more one says it, and in the most pompous and pedantic way possible? …Is it to fool the world or just to fool themselves?
  • “What is emotional truth?” “It’s sincerity within fiction.”
  • Literature, at least good literature, is science tempered with the blood of art. Like architecture or music.
  • It’s the student who makes the teacher, not the other way round.
  • Nothing is fair. The most one can hope for is for things to be logical. Justice is a rare illness in a world that is otherwise a picture of health.
  • Good words are a vain benevolence that demand no sacrifice and are more appreciated than real acts of kindness.
  • Every self-respecting act of persuasion must first appeal to curiosity, then to vanity, and lastly to kindness or remorse.
  • It’s much easier to hate someone with a recognisable face whom we can blame for everything that makes us feel uncomfortable.
  • It’s curious how easy it is to tell a piece of paper what you don’t dare to say to someone’s face
  • Normal people bring children into the world, we novelists bring books. We are condemned to put our whole lives into them, even though they hardly ever thank us for it.
  • …the only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him; the person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction.

Akotowaa =)

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