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First effort

May 7, 2010

This month, fans of Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon will be glad to learn that his first book, "The Prince of Mist," is coming out in English translation. Zafon talked to DW about revisiting a debut novel.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Zafon's work has been translated into 30 languagesImage: picture alliance/dpa

Carlos Ruiz Zafon was born in Barcelona in 1964. He is the author of the bestselling book "The Shadow of the Wind" - according to his website, the second-most successful novel in Spanish publishing history, after "Don Quixote."

Zafon's books have sold more than 15 million copies, and his work has been sold in 45 countries. His novel "The Prince of Mist," a mystery-horror title originally published for the young-adult market, is being translated into English this month after a long battle over rights.

Click on the audio link to listen to the complete interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Deutsche Welle: How have Spanish and Catalan literature influenced your writing?

Carlos Ruiz Zafon: I look at literature as one big thing. I never think of it as coming from the English tradition, or the French tradition, or the Catalan tradition, or the Russian tradition. To me, literature itself is a country, and that's what I am interested in. So, I never thought of myself as being influenced by one side or the other.

Image of the jacket cover of the adult edition of "The Prince of Mist"
'The Prince of Mist' was 17 years in the makingImage: Weidenfield &Nicolson

I am interested in specific authors; in good writing in general, wherever it may come from. And in that sense, I am very interested in writers from (different) countries. I know that there are people who tend to be very political about that, or tend to see schools of thought - but it's not the way I think.

For me, there's good writing and bad writing. And I am interested in good writing.

The English version of "The Prince of Mist" will come out in May this year - 17 years after it was first published in the original Spanish. What was it like to pull out this work again?

In many ways, it was like coming full circle. It is the first novel I published back when I was a young man. The reason it took so many years for it to be translated into other languages was mostly legal.

This book, along with other books, was trapped in a legal dispute between publishers for many years. And it turned out that by the time I got back the rights to my own work, I was writing books for adults. The first novels were published as young adult fiction, whatever that may mean. Because I just write for people who like to read, and I don't ask for their driving license to check their age…

For many years I wasn't able to get them published the way I wanted them to be published. So eventually when I got back the rights, I was working on "The Angel's Game" (a prequel to "Shadow of the Wind" - eds.) I felt that I didn't want any publisher to come out with these books right after "Shadow of the Wind."

At the time, "Shadow of the Wind" was a very successful book, and I thought that there would be a temptation to come out with these books in a way that may deceive readers. Many readers were asking booksellers, "'What comes after 'Shadow of the Wind'?" And I didn't want publishers to come out with these books that, although they have many elements in connection with "Shadow of the Wind," they have a similar flavor, they are somehow different.

Of course what happened is that many years went by in the process. So the first of my books is coming out now, almost 20 years after it was written. But these are the things with publishing - sometimes it takes a long time.

Image of Cervantes' "Don Quixote"
'The Shadow of the Wind' was a worldwide bestseller

You have evolved immensely in the past 20 years; you've gone from working in advertising to being a fulltime writer, for a start. Are there parts of this particular book that you would like to go back and rewrite?

There's always a temptation to rewrite or redo a book if you revisit it. I felt that that could be, in a way, a betrayal of the nature of the book. This is a book I wrote when I was in my mid 20s, and that's the book I wrote. To me, it works as it is. I made some minor changes and adjustments, but I decided to against the temptation of rewriting it as I would have written it today. In many ways, when you look back at books you have written, they are like time capsules of your life, and I like to keep them that way.

When you reread, in many ways, you are transported back to the time when you wrote it, and I wanted to keep it that way. That's the work of my self when I was 25 or 26 years old. I think it stands up well.

It's what it should be, and it's the book I wanted to write at the time. I think it was the first time I had written a book that was exactly what I wanted to write. It’s the book that made me a full-time writer, and I'm still surviving 20 years later. So its nothing to be messed with. I left the book as it was.

Interview: Breandain O'Shea (cc)

Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn