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The game of “The Angel's Game”

Carlos Ruiz ZafónThe ability of Carlos Ruiz Zafón as a novelist is beyond argument. The work published by the Spanish author in 2001 and entitled La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind, in the English translation) has been selling millions of copies worldwide, received enthusiastic critical recognitions, and won several international awards.

His next novel, published in 2008 by Planeta Corporación in Spain and by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in UK, and entitled El juego del ángel (The Angel's Game), is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, and I recently had the chance to read it.

The set of The Angel's Game is a rather dark looking Barcelona, in a period of time between 1920s and 1930s. The main character, who is also the storyteller, is David Martin, a guy in his mid twenties, working as a journalist for a newspaper called Voz de la Industria (literally, Voice of Industry). Martin took this job mainly for earning a living, since the real ambition of the young character is to become a successful novelist.

David is given the chance to write and publish a short novel by the deputy director of the Voz de la Industria, and, from that moment on, it seems that success and good luck start to be on his side. Nonetheless, sooner or later difficulties appear, and the character finds himself out of a job, without the girl he loves, deprived of any inspiration, and has to face a serious disease that leaves him less than one year to live.

Suddenly, in the middle of desperation, a mysterious man, a French publisher with an Italian name, i.e. Andreas Corelli, approaches David with the offer of writing a book that is expected to change the destiny of humanity. In exchange, Corelli pays the young writer a huge amount of money before starting to write the book. Moreover, the appearance of Andreas coincides with Martin's inexplicable recovery.

From that moment on, Zafón's novel starts to be an increasing sequence of perplexing events and puzzling murders of people linked to the main character, added to more and more dense suspects around the enigmatic figure of Corelli. Besides, David finds also weird evidences that seem to link his destiny with the one of another person who lived in the past.

I do not want to unveil the whole plot, as it is not my intention to spoil the expectations of potential readers of Zafón's novel. In addition, it would take too long to summarize the complex plot of events and facts wisely deployed by the Spanish author. On the other hand, I prefer to share the feeling and the interest I had about the novel while reading it.

Like any common reader, as I read more, my expectancy little by little increases. I cannot wait to read the end of the story, that is expected to be enough surprising and astonishing, at least to reward me for time and money.

Maybe, there is a less venal and more intimate explanation. Reading a book, regardless of its genre, means to establish a sort of remote empathy with the author. If the book is well structured, indeed, the reader is much more than a simple end user of a product, as everyone can find, through the plot of events, his/her own story. Thereby, if we feel like the plot belongs to us, we are more interested in its epilogue.

Whatever the explanation, I think that putting too much confidence in the end of a story is a losing game. Prospects, indeed, are generated from our prediction about the course of events. In case our forecast agrees with the conclusion of the story, there is no surprise, but just the confirmation of something that is expectable. On the other hand, when our prediction is proved to be wrong, there might be surprise, but it is obscured by disappointment, because the grand finale is never grand enough.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón found a brilliant way to step over the ending-induced disappointment. In doing so, he applied a problem solving method typical of science and engineering, which can be summarized as follows: if I cannot remove a systematic problem, I distribute it elsewhere, indeed mitigating its effects.

As one approaches the end of The Angel's Game, a large set of scenes, descriptions and events unfold in front of the reader's eyes. Typically, this feeds expectations. But if an author is smart enough – as Zafón unmistakably is – to persist in pushing forward this game, the attention of the reader starts to move from the expectancy of the ending to the need for accomplish the book's reading. Of course, the disappointment does not vanish, but since it is distributed in 200 300 pages rather than in the last 2 3 ones, it is less evident and noticeable.

In conclusion, Zafón has the same patience of an expert fisherman, who waits as long as it is necessary to let the fish get tired enough, before lifting it out of the water. As simple as effective.

Nessun voto finora

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