Martín wakes up and doesn’t know where he is.
Thick column of stone rose like trees in the shadows towards a naked vault. Needles of dusty light fell diagonally, revealing what looked like endless rows of ramshackle beds. Small drops of water fell from the heights like black tears, exploding with an echo as they touched the ground. The darkness smelled of mildew and damp.
It is little nuggets of imagery like this that makes the book less of a drag to read through, and that made Shadow of the Wind such a success.
It doesn’t look like a hospital and Martín asks a man in another bed where he is. The man is not very forthcoming with information, other than to say that he can either leave via the roof if he is no longer inclined to live, or just by the exit. Martín chooses to go up to the roof, presumably to commit suicide. Once on the roof, he realises where he is.
He shares this information with the reader by telling the reader when the view is.
Spread out before me was a lake, suspended above the treetops of Ciudadela Park. The sun was beginning to set over Barcelona and the weed-covered water rippled like spilt wine. The Water Reservoir building looked like a crude castle or a prison.
So far, this does not tell me anything about where he is, unless I am supposed to have an intimate knowledge of Barcelona. He then proceeds to tell us that the Water Reservoir building was converted to a shelter for the destitute and dying and it was only after reading that passage twice that I realised that he is on the roof of the Water Reservoir building. The way the paragraph started out, it read like he was looking at the Water Reservoir building. Confusing.
At any rate, he notices that he is not alone. As Martín is still suffering from his fall and the headaches, he cannot see the person very well.
I could barely see his face against the light, but I was able to tell that he was a gentleman with black, shining eyes that seemed too big for his face.
How can he tell the man is a gentleman? By his clothes, I presume?
The man is coming closer and as he is nearing, he seems to increase in stature. Martín is feeling apprehensive and steps back, almost falling into the water reservoir. (Which was before him earlier in the chapter and he didn’t turn around to see the stranger, so how it ended up behind him is a mystery.) The stranger pulls him back from the edge, saving his life.
Martín can now see him clearly.
His eyes were a normal size, his height similar to mine and his walk and gestures were like those of any other gentlemen.
Martín notices the man is wearing a small silver brooch like an angel with outspread wings.
It occurred to me that the presence of an impeccably dressed gentleman here in the roof terrace was rather unusual.
Oh, you find that unusual, do you? But meeting your fictitious character in a building that burnt down fifteen years ago was all right? Or receiving the exact copy of Great Expectations that was sold years ago with your bloodstained fingerprints on it? Clearly, Martín is very selective in what he finds unusual.
The stranger and Martín start talking, and Martín realises it is Andreas Corelli, his mysterious admirer.
He spoke with a light accent which I was unable to identify. My instinct told me to get up and leave as fast as possible, before the stranger could utter another word, but there was something in his voice, in his eyes, that transmitted calm and trust. […] His smile seemed to promise redemption.
At last Martín has some feelings that seem at least reasonable considering the situation. And I have to admit that I can understand him not walking away from this stranger.
Andreas Corelli explains he wants Martín to work for him for a whole year, to write a book for him.
He says that the stuff Martín is currently writing is garbage, not worth his time. He mentions that Cristina holds that opinion as well. When asked by Martín whether he knows her, Corelli replies,
‘I’ve heard of her. She seems to be the sort of woman whose respect and admiration one would give anything to win, don’t you agree?’
He seems to know quite a bit about Martín, including what buttons to push to make Martín do what he wants.
He offers Martín one hundred thousand francs to write the book. Martín points out that he isn’t much of a writer, that he writes under a pseudonym and that no one even knows who he is.
‘Right now I am satisfied if I manage one or two decent sentences in an hour.’
I am surprised at this lack of confidence all of a sudden, in the previous chapter he was full of confidence about how well he was changing Vidal’s book.
Corelli waves all those objections away, saying he is a far better writer than he gives himself credit for.
‘I know exactly what sort of author and what sort of man you are. I’ve been watching you for years, as you are well aware. […] I dare say I know you better than you know yourself. Which is why I’m sure that in the end you will accept my offer.’
Yep, Corelli is a creepy stalker. He insists that Martín will change his mind and asks Martín to think over his proposal. He leaves promising Martín that when they meet next time, Martín will see things more clearly.
In the last rays of daylight falling on the city his eyes glowed like embers.
I saw him disappear through the door to the staircase. Only then did I realise that during the entire conversation I had not once seen him blink.
This was the first chapter in a long while where I wasn’t thoroughly fed up with Martín. He was not annoyingly arrogant or stupid, and the interaction with Corelli was quite interesting. Of course he wouldn’t accept Corelli’s offer right away – it is almost too good to be true – but I think Corelli is right that Martín will eventually accept. The money is good and Martín does want to publish a book with his name on the front. Not a pseudonym, but his own name.