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by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Lucia Graves, trans. and Lucia Graves, trans.
Harper Perennial, March 2022
176 pages
ISBN: 0063118092

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Fans of Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon and his novels, most famously THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, may have been bereft when he died in 2020. But the novelist, fortunately for us, left behind a collection of short stories, some never published in English.

Now, eleven of his short stories are available to English-language readers in THE CITY OF MIST, a slim publication that brings back some of Ruiz Zafon's characters from his four-book series, with that same gothic sensibility. The books take the reader back to that world of fog-covered streets, where anything is possible—angels, devils, and characters who survive the worst of humanity.

Lucia Graves, his longtime translator, has done an excellent job of providing us these English versions. The author himself also translated two stories and wrote one in English.

The city of mist refers to Barcelona, but the stories span centuries, with one of the earliest tales set in 1454. In "Rose of Fire," Edmond de Luna arrives in Barcelona, the sole survivor of a ship that emerges from the mist. The maker of labyrinths carries with him a secret diary. Raimundo de Sempere, an ancestor of a main series character, is a printer who is brought in to translate the diary, written in Persian. Sempere, however, does keep one secret to himself, burying it in a family chest.

In another story, "The Prince of Parnassus," set in 1569, famed author Miguel de Cervantes has yet to pen his Don Quixote masterpiece (although one of Cervantes' friends is named Sancho). It's a tale of a curse, a lost love, and an offer that Cervantes can't refuse. The tale is related by Antoni de Sempere, father of one of the main characters in the book, with a neat little revelation at the end.

Most of these stories, in fact, do relate to each other and to the series. But some are standalones, such as the last story, which is perhaps the most poignant one.

Written in English, "Two-Minute Apocalypse" is just two pages long and set in a modern-day world, although one with a Goth redheaded woman and a Gothic-spired hotel. The book's back cover tells us that Ruiz Zafon prepared this collection before his death and meant for it to be published posthumously. So this final story, dealing with an imminent death, is especially touching.

§ Lourdes Venard is an independent editor who divides her time between New York and Maui.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, January 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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