Spain's 'Shadow of the Wind' author Zafon dead at 55

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Barcelona (AFP)

Leading Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who scored an international hit with his Barcelona-based mystery "The Shadow of the Wind", died on Friday, his publishing house said. He was 55.

"Today Carlos Ruiz Zafon has died, one of the best contemporary novelists. We will remember you forever, Carlos!" Planeta publishing house wrote on Twitter.

In a statement, Planeta said Zafon had died at his Los Angeles home after battling cancer.

"He will live on among us through his books," it added.

Written in 2001, "The Shadow of the Wind" was his best-known work and one of the most successful Spanish novels of recent decades.

In the statement, Planeta quoted a line from the novel when protagonist Daniel Sempere is first shown the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a labyrinthine, mystical secret library around which the story is woven.

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens."

Thus begins an atmospheric story set in Ruiz-Zafon's native Barcelona in the wake of the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) in which Sempere tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the author of a certain book.

"Shadow of the Wind" was an immediate hit and has since been translated into some 50 languages, selling millions of copies and becoming the first of a quartet of novels in his "Cemetery of Forgotten Books" series.

The last book, "The Labyrinth of Spirits", was published in 2016, two years before he was diagnosed with cancer.

At the time, he explained why he had never let any of his works be adapted for cinema.

"For me, these books are a homage to literature, to the written word. For that reason, transforming them for the cinema or television would be a betrayal," he said.

Born in Barcelona in 1964, Ruiz Zafon studied at a religious school then earned a degree in information sciences.

A lover of books since childhood, he didn't publish his first novel until he was nearly 30 after leaving a career in advertising.