Writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon says technophile society will stunt young minds


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The Independent Culture

Best-selling author Carlos Ruiz Zafón says young people are “being turned into compliant customers” of big technology companies rather than citizens and says that artists must work harder than ever to capture the imagination.

The writer of The Shadow of the Wind, which has sold almost 1.7 million copies in the UK and 20 million worldwide, says he has a “disturbing vision” of the future where “the only thing people stand in line for is to buy an iPhone, and not to listen to Mozart”.

Ruiz Zafón also revealed that he has turned down numerous offers to turn his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series into Hollywood films, despite being based part of the year in Los Angeles.

“I don’t feel the need to see them transformed into video games or action movies or a TV series,” he says, speaking to the Independent on Sunday on the tenth anniversary The Shadow of the Wind was published in English. “Not because there is anything wrong with those things. There is great work done in those mediums but I don’t see why everything has to become a movie. Nothing tells a story with the richness, wonder and complexity of a novel does, if it is done right.”

As the books are “a cycle of novels about the written word and what it means to live among books, I would be betraying myself by selling them, to squeeze more money out of them”, he adds.

The Spaniard, who divides his time between his native Barcelona and LA, says that although all revolutions bring with them good and bad aspects, the current technological revolution is leading to “a separation between tiny elites and a huge mass of people who are being bred as customers, who are very content with very little, I find that a disturbing and troubling development”. 

Anyone in the business “of creating stories, music and beauty, has a responsibility to capture people’s imaginations”, he says, but adds “we.are a lot less powerful than the big technological companies that are taking over content”.

“They are devaluing content as they take away the added value that they never paid for and they include it in their products and businesses and platforms and they are selling that to a public who are eager to consume them.”

Ruiz Zafón began his career writing young adult fiction in Spain in the 1990s. His prizewinning first book The Prince of Mist is a standard title in Spanish high schools. The third in the series The Watcher in the Shadows was translated into English last year and its paperback version is just about to go on sale in the UK.

Ruiz Zafón says he was “doomed to become a story teller as that is the way I came out of the factory” but he tells aspiring writers to “only jump into these waters if you have the feeling that by not doing it you are ruinng your life.”

“There are so very few opportunities and so many people who want them that when you get into the process it messes with your heart and it messes with your soul and by the end of the tunnel you don’t know who you are any more,” he says.

But fans waiting for the fourth and final instalment in his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series will have to wait a year or two yet. Ruiz Zafón says he is currently immersed in this world but “it is a very complicated book to write”.