As anyone who hasn’t been hiding beneath a rock for the past three years knows, The Da Vinci Code created a sensation rarely seen in publishing these days. However, with the publication of The Secret Supper, Javier Sierra suggested that there may be more to Da Vinci’s code could have imagined. His latest work, The Lady in Blue, is a riveting follow-up.
Few novels in recent history have created quite the stir that Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code did upon its publication in 2003. Both praised for its readability and ingenuity and lambasted as blasphemous, this modern day murder mystery surrounding secret messages hidden in mast painter Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous works became widely read, pondered, and analyzed. So, it may only be natural that one might believe that Spanish author Javier Sierra's The Secret Supper is just another post-Da Vinci Code clone. However, both the writer and the critics prove that this simply is not the case.
Sierra has had a lifelong fascination with travel, writing, and revealing history's most confounding mysteries. According to Sierra's web site, it was he who located the highly controversial map of Piri Reis in Turkey, which supposedly offers "definitive proof" that Christopher Columbus was not the first person to navigate a route to the New World. Sierra also embarked on a quest for the Lost Inca Gold in Peru. He has explored strange phenomena surrounding the ancient sect of the Knights Templar in his 2000 novel Las Puertas Templarias (The Templar Doors) and Napoleon's bizarre night alone in the Great Pyramid at Giza in El Secreto Egipcio de Napoleon (Napoleon's Egyptian Secret, 2002). Now he is using his exploratory acumen to shed further light on the secrets behind the real Da Vinci code.
In The Secret Supper, Sierra takes us back to the late 15th century when Leonardo Da Vinci was very much alive and stirring up controversy amongst his contemporaries after church officials discovered subversive codes in his painting "The Last Supper." What follows is a church investigation led by Father Agostino Leyre regarding Da Vinci's intentions behind the mysterious messages he scattered in this world-renowned work of sacred art. While this plot may easily be mistaken for its more famous predecessor, Sierra had wholly different intentions in writing The Secret Supper than Dan Brown had when writing his novel. "A few pages of [The Da Vinci Code] were enough to resuscitate an enigma on which I had been already working for more than two years," Sierra said of The Secret Supper on his web site. "A mystery that, far from being solved in The Da Vinci Code, merited an exploration it had yet to receive... To accomplish this, one would have to manage something very important that the Dan Brown had never attempted: to enter the mind of Leonardo."
Sierra attempted to achieve this by setting forth on a globe-trotting journey to unveil the real meaning behind "The Last Supper." The discoveries that the author made during his treks to Paris, Milan, Rome, Florence, and the Tuscan village of Da Vinci formed the basis of The Secret Supper. "I started the field research of the book in 2001, before the publication of Brown's bestseller," Sierra said. "That was good for my work because I was able to consult files and places that today are crowded by readers of the Code."
Impressively, Sierra's own take on the mysteries swirling around Da Vinci's legacy have not been overshadowed by the imposing reputation cast by The Da Vinci Code. The Secret Supper has received wide critical acclaim from such sources as Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, and Kirkus Reviews, which went as far as to say that "Sierra is a more sophisticated writer than Dan Brown, and he offers fresh perspective on the Renaissance mind."
Apparently, it is neither the opinions of the critics nor those of his readers that are most prominently on Sierra's mind. "It took me three years to discover [the secrets behind ‘The Last Supper'], Sierra explained on his web site. "The same number of years that Leonardo took to create his version of ‘The Last Supper.' But before letting the world know his secret, even in the form of a novel, I wanted to ask him permission at his tomb... Whether Leonardo granted it to me or not, readers will now be able to judge for themselves."
Good To Know
Sierra has not limited his explorations of the unknown to the printed page. In 2004, he created and directed his very own television program for Telemadrid called El otro lado de la realidad (The Other Side of Reality).
While many kids were spending their teenage years bored in journalism class, Sierra was tackling a full-blown career in journalism. At the age of 16, he was writing articles for the Spanish press; at 18 he was a co-founder of an international magazine called Año Cero (Year Zero).
Some interesting outtakes from our interveiw with Sierra:
"I love those little details in a book that you can check for yourself. I always travel with a notebook where I write down those pieces of information that could be useful to complete a sequence in my books. If you want to play this game, I invite you to check those ‘little facts' included in The Secret Supper. Every café mentioned in my books exists; any house, façade, cemetery or park, also. It is always enjoyable when you can rediscover these little ‘secrets'!"
"In an eventual future life, I would like to be a musician. As with literature, music possesses an invisible energy that you can transform into something real. And that's just magic!"
"One of my favorite places to visit are old bookshops. It is a strange pleasure to smell those old volumes, and to know that I could find a treasure ‘buried' between them. From my early childhood, I always regarded books as ‘treasure maps,' and in a way, they are. They can bring you to remote cultures and exotic countries without your ever having to leave your armchair."
"One of my favorite hobbies is to visit sacred places around the world. They always attract me like a magnet. It doesn´t matter if they are sacred places of Christians, Muslims, Hebrews, ancient Greeks or modern sects. It is not a question of faith, and it is not just curiosity. I can't explain it, but I ‘know' I must visit them. In a way, doing so I feel like Sir Parcival searching for the Holy Grail. And this act of searching for the sacred is a very powerful tool for writing."
"I love receiving correspondence. I do not refer to e-mails, but to classic posted letters. My father worked as a postman many years, and I discovered with him the strange pleasure of sending a message and waiting impatiently for an answer."
"For me, the place where I live is extremely important. I chose a city on the Mediterranean coast because the sea provides me serenity. For seventeen years I lived in Madrid, with the sea more than three hundred kilometres away, and that was not good for my mind, believe me!"
"And just one secret: when relaxed, I like to draw comic-like stories. I have a great collection of them in my files."