Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s bestselling book in the Shadow of the Wind is as much an ode to his hometown of Barcelona as the mystique of literature, but how much remains of his gloomy, post-war Barcelona for today’s visitor?The central Carrer Santa Anna, where the main character Daniel Sempere and his father lived, is still a bustling commercial hub. Sadly, there is no sign of Sr. Sempere’s second-hand bookshop, but their local church could only be the lovely, tucked-away Esglèsia de Santa Ana.Nearby, the Portal de L’ Ángel (Puerta del Ängel) is where Daniel first spied the sinister Julián Carax observing him from a distance. These days it’s the city’s number one shopping strip, and doesn’t hold much mystery unless you are harbour a theory they that they have invented a way to clone Zara shops.
Running parallel to Carrer Santa Anna at Carrer Canuda 6 you’ll find the Ateneu (Ateneo), Barcelona’s literary institution and, as described by Daniel, still “one of the many places in Barcelona where the nineteenth century has not been served an eviction notice.” Next door, is the nearest thing the city has to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the Llibreria Canuda (Carrer Canuda, 4). Scores of encyclopaedias, novels, photographic and text books, old theatre programmes and magazines line the floor to ceiling in this creaking, cob-webby relic.The Plaça de Sant Felip Neri where Nuria Monfort lived, is indeed one of the most atmospheric nooks in the Barri Gòti. As Ruiz Zafón says, there are pockmarks in the facade of the church—although whether, as he claims, they were caused by bullets from acivil war firing squad is in dispute.
Continuing further south you will hit the Església del Pi (or Basilica del Pino), an austere gothic affair and fitting start for Sophie Carax’s and Antoni Fortuny loveless matrimony. Running off the square the Carrer Petrixol is where Daniel took his unrequited love-interest Clara ‘for a bowl of whipped cream and hot chocolate’ and is still famous for the granjas (confusingly translated as ‘milk bars’ in the book). One of the best is Dulcinea, at number 2.
Continue towards the port to the Plaça Reial, where Gustavo and Clara Barceló shared their “palatial apartment”. Flanking its north side is the once-elegant Carrer Ferran (Calle Fernando) where Barceló’s bookshop was located. On the south side, the infamous Carrer d’ Escudellers (Calle Escudillers) is still dotted with “foul hovels” like the one where Fermín procured the “Andalucian Venus” Rociíto.
Of course the most featured landmark in The Shadow the Wind is the ‘White Friar’, the gloomy house of horrors where much of the plot is centred.
You’ll need to take, as Daniel did, the century old Blue Tram which rattles up Avinguda Tibidabo to get there. Here Ruiz Zafón tries to throw you by stating that the Aldaya family mansion is located at number 32. It’s not (in fact that’s the most non-descript building on this fine street dotted with modernista architecture) but directly across the road at number 31 is the Casa Roviralta which is indeed locally known as the frare blanch or ‘white friar’. These days it houses the excellent restaurant the Asador de Aranda which specialises in the slow roasted meats of the Castile region.Note: Place names as they appear in the book are in brackets.