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The City of Mist: Stories


The City of Mist: Stories

I am not quite sure why I did it, but as I was reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s short story collection, I took a look at his bio on the back cover. A literal chill ran down my spine as I read these words: “THE CITY OF MIST is his final book --- a collection of stories prepared before his death in June 2020, meant to be published posthumously.”

June 2020 was a strange time for our world as most of us were still in some form of lockdown due to the pandemic. At the time, I recall hearing the news of Zafón’s death and feeling badly about it. But I have to admit that my memory is not what it once was. So reading this work now, as COVID-19 still exists in our world, was a surreal experience. Zafón was a brilliant writer, and as we awaken from the bad dream that has spoiled our collective consciousness, it is time to appreciate this book that shows just how talented he was at manipulating language and words.

"There is much to savor in THE CITY OF MIST, and I am thankful that Carlos Ruiz Zafón provides us a literary beacon through the mist that has been the past two years."

Before discussing some of these stories, I should point out that most of them were translated by Lucia Graves. Two were translated by Zafón himself, and most impressively, one was penned by him in English. He genuinely loved Barcelona, the home of his birth and where a lot of his writing took place. Writing in the short form was obviously less confining for him as much of his work rings of poetic vision and imagery that could very well exist in a dream-like countenance or mist, as the book’s title suggests. His mastery of the written word is at full heights throughout, and some of the best moments as a reader are the streams of consciousness that permeate his descriptions.

The first story, “Blanca and the Departure,” features Zafón’s most famous protagonist, David Martin. We recognize that David’s interactions with the young woman named Blanca may very well be a product of his own imagination. He refers to her as his first reader and first audience. He later describes a rainy night where “[d]uring an endless moment the rain was left suspended in mid-air, a million glass tears floating in the void, and I saw an angel kiss her on the forehead, its lips leaving a mark on her skin like that of a red-hot iron.”

“A Young Lady from Barcelona” is the tragic tale of young Laia, who “was five years old the first time her father sold her.” There is so much breadth of feeling in that opening line that it sets you up for the rest of the dour story. In “Rose of Fire,” it is the year 1454 and a plague is ravaging Zafón’s beloved Spain. His gift for descriptive language is fully on display in “Kiss,” where he states, “All I knew about Laura was that she worked part-time at the offices of the landlord on the first floor, and that she kissed like a tango.”

“The Prince of Parnassus” features Antoni de Sempere, the gentleman who everyone calls “the maker of books.” If there is one consistent theme throughout all of Zafón’s writing, it’s his praise for books, reading and the beauty of the written word. This story gives us the great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, and much reference is made to his legendary work, DON QUIXOTE. Here, we see Cervantes sharing the story within a story that speaks directly to the creation of his novel in a piece called “A Poet in Hell.” Cervantes muses, “God had abandoned Francesca di Parma’s beauty to the hands of men to remind them of the ugliness of their souls, the meanness of their endeavors, and the rancour of their desires.”

There is much to savor in THE CITY OF MIST, and I am thankful that Carlos Ruiz Zafón provides us a literary beacon through the mist that has been the past two years.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 24, 2021

The City of Mist: Stories
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

  • Publication Date: November 23, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: ‎0063118092
  • ISBN-13: 9780063118096