The Shadow of the Wind

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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‘For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved.’ – Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts.

Undergoing chemotherapy is all about putting one foot forward and then the other. It’s about getting through each day – enduring the bad, celebrating the good. It’s about chalking the days off one’s treatment regime, one by one.

Chemotherapy, to lift the words of Yeats, is a ‘terrible beauty’. It offers hope where just a few years ago there would be none; it even offers, to the lucky ones, a cure. But the beauty is laced with darkness. It’s powerful, ravaging, toxic, occasionally indiscriminate stuff that hits a few innocent bystanders within your body as it seeks out the real enemy within.

The side effects vary person by person, regime by regime. For me currently it’s about constant, nagging nausea and an almost total lack of concentration – maddening when you do a job like mine. And I always, always feel cold, often right to the bone.

I’m two weeks into my final nine week programme. As promised by my always candid medical team, it’s much tougher second time round. Getting through each day is an achievement (I am genuinely marking the days off on a chart on my fridge), each mark signifying another day closer to a period of normality.

For now the magic elixir that is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is off the menu; hot toddies with an appropriately excessive ratio of whisky are what the doctor ordered – or should have. I recommend spoiling yourself by using a great flavoursome single malt such as Glenfiddich Havana Reserve or Glengoyne Port Finish – hey you only live once…

Concentration difficulties aside, I am pouring through some excellent reading. With the epic Shantaram (see above) behind me, I have started, courtesy of Sharon Weiner from DFS, on The Shadow of the Wind (La sombra del viento), the magnificent 2001 novel by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón.


It is keeping me suitably distracted from the less pleasant realities of life and transporting me – as it has with millions of readers – to a marvellously atmospheric post–Spanish Civil War Barcelona. The Shadow of the Wind has been described by one critic as a “love letter to literature”. Quite so. It’s also an unexpected antidote to chemotherapy.

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  • Hello Martin: as usual, another uplifting message from the front line. The passage from The Shadow of the Wind reminded me so much of the lines from James Elroy Flecker’s The Golden Journey to Samarkand that are inscribed on the SAS’s clock tower in Hereford:

    “We are the Pilgrims, master;we shall go
    Always a little further; it may be
    Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow,
    Across that angry or that glimmering sea.”

    It must be as hard or harder to tough out the chemotherapy than pass “Selection” to the SAS. You need the same characteristics: courage, fortitude, sense of humour…all of which come through so strongly in your reports of progress.

    Talking of sense of humour, no Tommy Cooper this time, but what about a Leslie Nielsen? As the pilots and passengers become violently ill, in the movie Airplane!, Nielsen as the “doctor on board” says they must get to a hospital right away.

    “A hospital? What is it?” a flight attendant asks, inquiring about the illness.

    “It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now,” Nielsen replies.