Saturday, 23 April 2011
The Prince of Mists by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, trans Lucia Graves
This post is my response to the Mostly Reading YA Translation Month.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is most well known, of course, for The Shadow of the Wind, also translated by Lucia Graves, but his first four books were Young Adult novels. The Prince of Mists was his first novel, published in 1993, followed by The Midnight Palace (1994), Las Luces de Septiembre (The Lights of September, yet to have an English edition, 1995) and Marina (also yet to have an English edition, 1999). The Prince Of Mists was published in English by Orion in 2010.
13- year-old Max Carver lives in an unnamed city. One day in the early summer of 1943, his father, a watch maker, comes home and announces to the family that they are moving to the coast. On arrival at their new home, his younger sister Irina insists on adopting a stray cat she finds at the station, and Max notices that the station clock appears to be going backwards. The new house also seems to have a strange atmosphere: it hasn't been lived in since the former occupants' son, Jacob Fleischmann, had drowned in 1932.
Not long after the family arrive, Irina has an accident that results in coma, and she and the parents have a long hospital stay. Max, his older sister Alicia and their friend Roland discover that the sinister Prince of Mists has a terrible grievance against the Finkelsteins and is out for revenge.
This is a fast paced, absorbing read, atmospherically set on what I assume is the Northern Spanish coast (there is mention of the channel and trade with Northern Europe via the sea). Some aspects don't quite hang together for me: it wasn't entirely clear what the Prince's powers were, where he came from and why, for example, and the purpose of the backwards-running clocks- but there are some terrifying moving statues. As a debut, it is impressive, and I can't wait to read Ruiz Zafon's other Young Adult reads.
Graves' translation is excellent. It is exactly as a good translation should be, in that it is unobtrusive and naturalistically rendered. An article on her childhood and life in Majorca with her father, poet Robert Graves, can be found here.