The Angel’s Game read-along: Act One, Chapter 3 and 4

Of course Martín goes to the brothel. What seventeen year old boy would pass up such an invitation? The brothel is upstairs from a music hall and when Martín knocks on the door, it is opened by a woman who is clearly expecting him.

‘You must be Señor David Martín.’

Martín is very impressed to be called señor and he is led into the brothel. The woman who led him in goes off to get him a glass of champagne. Martín is the only customer in the brothel, and there are no women around except for the one who opened the door. This alone would have made me suspicious, as surely one would want to choose from a selection of girls when one gets there. (Not that I have any experience of going to a brothel, so what do I know?)

Then the woman delivers this beauty of a line:

‘If you’d care to sit down, sir. Chloé will be with you presently.’

If we remember from Chapter 2, Chloé is the femme fatale character Martín had created for his Mysteries of Barcelona series. Martín makes that connection as well and is of course a bit confused, but happily drinks his champagne.

He is finally let into a small room and is locked in. This does not seem to bother our horny protagonist at all. When his eyes adjust to the dark, he notices that the bedroom he is in is identical to the fictional bedroom he created for his character Chloé. And then he notices there is a woman in the room. Of course it is the fictional character Chloé. Martín describes her as follows:

She had the palest skin I had ever seen and her short hair was cut at right angles, framing her face. Her lips were the colour of fresh blood and her green eyes were surrounded by a halo of dark shadow.

Sounds familiar? Cristina had very pale skin too, sounds like Martín modelled his femme fatale after his childhood crush.

Martín continues to describe her:

Her slender, endless neck was circled by a scarlet velvet ribbon from which hung and upside down crucifix.

Does anyone else think Chloé resembles a giraffe from this description or is it just me?

Chloé and Martín proceed to have sex, no surprise there, and when Martín wakes up he finds Chloé gone and a business card from his mysterious admirer, Andreas Corelli, in his hand. When he leaves the brothel, there is no one around, and everything is completely silent.

Chapter 3 ends with

…I wondered whether the lips of Cristina Sagnier, the daughter of Vidal’s chauffeur, might taste the same.

Yep, Chloé was definitely inspired by Cristina.

In the next chapter, Martín cannot stop thinking about Chloé. He wants to meet her again. Of course that is not surprising, he is a horny teenager and she was his first time, but does he not find it at least a little bit weird that she was exactly like a fictional character he created, in a bedroom the same as in his stories? We don’t get any of his thoughts about that, so my guess is that he is still so in the thrall of this woman that he doesn’t think about anything else.

Eventually he makes his way back to El Ensueño only to find the place abandoned.

It was empty. The blanket of dust covering the floor shone like sand in the glimmer from the illuminated signs in the street. I walked on, leaving a trail of footsteps in the dust. No sign of the gramophone, of the armchairs or the pictures. The ceiling had burst open, revealing blackened beams. The paint hung from the walls in strips.

In other words, the place is in shambles. And this was only three days after his first visit, so very strange indeed. While Martín is trying to take it all in, he sees the silhouette of a man outlined in the doorway, but when he goes after the man, the man vanishes without a trace.

Martín leaves all confused and learns in a café that El Ensueño had been destroyed by a fire fifteen years ago. A perusal through the newspaper archives confirms this.

So, from my one year of studying Spanish in university I have learned that Spanish, and especially South American literature always has something of the mystique in it. You encounter lots of strange happenings and I am assuming that Carlos Ruiz Zafón has picked up these elements and used them in his book. That is fine, obviously there are strange things going on in this chapter and I accept that this is apparently a mystical story. What I don’t understand is why Martín just accepts what is happening. He is a bit confused about the fire, but doesn’t seem to be giving it too much thought. You’d think he’d be running around going “What is going on? I had sex with a fictional character I created in a building that burned out fifteen years ago, but which looked amazing three days ago, how can all this happen?” Is that because mystical things always happen in his world or is it because he is a not-so-observant seventeen year old boy? Or did Carlos Ruiz Zafón simply find it more convenient for Martín not to question anything too closely?

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