favorite passages from the shadow of the wind.

the shadow of the wind has long been one of my favorite books, and my recent re-read reminded me of why. it has everything a great book needs, including great passages throughout. some of what i underlined i have written down in the past, and some i discovered for the first time during this read-through. experiencing this book is always a highlight, and today i am sharing my favorite lines and passages.

i was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell i carry on my hands to this day // 4

‘this is a place of mystery, daniel, a sanctuary. every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. the soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grow and strengthens. this place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. perhaps as old as the city itself. nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. i will tell you what my father told me, though. when a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. in this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. in the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. now they have only us, daniel. do you think you’ll be able to keep such a secret?’ // 5-6

once, in my father’s bookshop, i heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later — no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget — we will return. for me those enchanted pages will always be the ones i found among the passageways of the cemetery of forgotten books // 8

a secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept // 11

‘there’s no such thing as dead languages, only dormant minds’ // 15

that is how clara read, with borrowed eyes // 22

‘this is a world of shadows, daniel, and magic is a rare asset’ // 27

that summer it rained every day, and although many said it was god’s wrath because the villagers had opened a casino next to the church, i knew that it was my fault, and mine alone, for i had learned to lie and my lips still retained the last words spoken by my mother on her deathbed: ‘i never loved the man i married but another, who, i was told, had been killed in the war; look for him and tell him my last thoughts were for him, for he is your real father’ // 65

‘people tend to complicate their own lives, as if living weren’t already complicated enough’ // 71

as i walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, i could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. i couldn’t help thinking that if i, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. i felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot // 76

‘presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not for the merits of who receives them’ // 77

‘there are worse prisons than words, daniel’ // 166

‘the words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul’ // 167

‘he used to say that we exist as long as somebody remembers us’ // 172

‘someone once said that the moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you’ve already stopped loving that person forever’ // 176

she laughed nervously. ‘i don’t know what came over me. don’t be offended, but sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. why is that?’ / i shrugged. ‘probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are’ // 176-7

‘well, this is a story about books’ / ‘about books?’ / ‘about accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. it’s a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind’ // 178

i told her how until that moment i had not understood that this was a story about lonely people, about absence and loss, and that that was why i had taken refuge in it until it became confused with my own life, like someone who has escaped into the pages of a novel because those whom he needs to love seem nothing more than ghosts inhabiting the mind of a stranger // 179

i paused for a moment, stranded in an ocean of silvery birds, and though how this had been the strangest and most marvelous day of my life // 183

‘there are few reasons for telling the truth, but for lying the number is infinite’ // 196

‘books are boring’ / ‘books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you,’ answered julián // 209

‘few things are more deceptive than memories’ // 221

the nurse knew that those who really love, love in silence, with deeds and not with words // 264

‘and keep your dreams,’ said miquel. ‘you never know when you might need them’ // 278

‘fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen’ // 291

there are people you remember and people you dream of. for me, nuria monfort was like a mirage: you don’t question its veracity, you simply follow it until it vanishes or until it destroys you // 325

i knew that one day she would return to me, in months or years to come, that i would always relive her memory in the touch of a stranger, in the recollection of images that no longer belonged to me // 349

‘there are worse prisons than words’ // 353

‘it’s funny how we judge others and don’t realize the extent of our disdain until they are no longer there, until they are taken from us. they’re taken from us because they’ve never been ours…’ // 355

‘sometimes we think people are like lottery tickets, that they’re there to make our most absurd dreams come true’ // 356

‘while you’re working, you don’t have to look life in the eye’ // 363

‘making money isn’t hard in itself,’ he complained. ‘what’s hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one’s life to’ // 371

‘one loves truly only once in a lifetime, julián, even if one isn’t aware of it’ // 407

nothing feeds forgetfulness better than war, daniel. we all keep quiet and they try to convince us that what we’ve seen, what we’ve done, what we’ve learned about ourselves and about others, is an illusion, a passing nightmare. wars have no memory, and nobody has the courage to understand them until there are no voices left to tell what happened, until the moment comes when we no longer recognize them and they return, with another face and another name, to devour what they left behind // 428

in those days i learned that nothing is more frightening than a hero who lives to tell his story, to tell what all those who fell at his side will never be able to tell // 428

distracted by so much fear, i forgot that i was growing old, that life was passing me by, that i had sacrificed my youth to love a man who was now almost a phantom // 430

julián had once told me that a story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise // 444

of all the things that julián wrote, the one i have always felt closest to my heart is that so long as we are being remembered, we remain alive // 446

‘we all love in our own way’ // 475

she wore an ivory-white dress and held the world in her eyes // 480

bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day // 484

soon afterward, like figures made of steam, father and son disappear into the crowd of the ramblas, their steps lost forever in the shadow of the wind // 487

going through these makes me ready to read this again.


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