“El Iluminado” reads like a Dan Brown thriller, which is good in many ways, because after all who doesn’t enjoy a good thriller, right? At the same time it is in graphic format – so that’s a double whammy right there for you.
This is the kind of book which is thought of quite rarely and now that it is out there, I recommend it to all and sundry.
What is the plot?
A man by the name of Rolando Perez falls to his death from a cliff outside Santa Fe, Mexico and this is where the story begins. How did he die? Was it suicide? Was he killed? What has this got to do with the Catholic Church and the Jews?
In all of this arrives Professor Stavans, who is just there to give a theological lecture on the history of Jews and talks about “crypto-Jews” of that area and how did they manage to come out to America from Europe. This of course is depicted as the “fictional” Stavans.
Without even knowing, Stavans is drawn into the mystery of Rolando’s death and to find some documents that could hold the key to it all. But that’s not it. In the midst of all this, there is another angle – of Luis de Carvajal also known as “El Iluminado” (the Enlightened One) – who was a sixteenth-century Spanish Catholic, who but obviously is a “crypto-Jew”.
So who are these “crypto-Jews”? Who are these mysterious people that keep popping up helping Stavans or not in his quest?
I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. Stavans writes with great clarity and Sheinkin’s illustrations are simple and add to the story quite well. There are hints of it being real but largely this story is fictional. If you are fan of religions and want to know more about the displacement of the Jews and right from the sixteenth century or earlier than that, then this book is for you.