An interview with the Spanish author of The Secret Supper (La cena secreta)
Q: Javier, how would you describe La cena secreta to those who are not familiar with your work?
A: I would describe it as a kind of atlas or guide to learn a new language. It’s not only a novel, but a tool that teaches the reader how to interpret works of art from the past. In fact, I think if La cena secreta has any virtues, it’s the virtue of giving us back the capacity to read art-a capacity we lost with the discovery of printing and with the literacy of our culture and civilization. In the 15th century, not everyone could read. Very few had access to books. Therefore, the formula they used in the past to convey information was through works of art; almost everyone could read art then, something that doesn’t happen now.
Q: Our audience is bilingual Hispanics who are 50 and older. Have you noticed a difference in how various generations respond to your book?
A: Well, there are different approaches to the book, depending on the reader’s age. I think that every good book has different levels of reading. To young people, it’s a thriller, a book of action, of intrigue, of mysteries. It’s kind of like a giant puzzle that they assemble piece by piece. And middle-aged people have discovered that the book tries to bring them closer to a significant aspect of religion. Deep inside, all the characters in La cena secreta fight to find their faith, their real faith. And I think it’s very important for people of a certain age, or any age, to find their real faith.
Q: And do you have an ideal reader?
A: I think that the ideal reader of my books is the reader who feels curiosity and hasn’t lost the capacity to be surprised. It’s a reader who, even though he’s an adult, retains a child’s spirit; he keeps the capacity to be amazed by the things he doesn’t know. He’s capable of opening his eyes very wide to understand more than what he’s been taught. That is my ideal reader: the curious reader.
Q: Which authors have in some way influenced your work?
A: I feel I owe a big debt of gratitude to authors like Umberto Eco, the Italian writer and semiologist. He’s a very intelligent person who in his novels introduces many cultural references and mysteries, but they’re facts. They’re facts, real things. And his books have enabled millions of people in the world to get closer to fragments of classical culture that otherwise would have remained inaccessible to a mass audience. I also admire the great creators of thrillers, of intrigue, of fiction. From Ken Follett with his work in Pillars of the Earth to other contemporary masters like Dan Brown. I discovered Dan Brown when I was about to finish writing La cena secreta.
You can find the full interview here