The Lamps of Albarracín. By Edith Scott Saavedra ISBN: 9781724787514 . $24.95.
The Lamps of Albarracín gives voice to the diverse peoples of late-medieval Aragon – Jews, Muslims, Christians, conversos, and mudéjares. Those were the years leading up to the Expulsion of 1492, when the social contract that had allowed the three faiths to live together in tenuous harmony was coming apart. As an author, I was keen to explore beliefs, identities, and inter-faith friendships and conflicts. The peculiar logic of the Inquisitors and those who supported them. The shock of forced conversion to Catholicism. The dramas of resistance. Stories of ordinary people in extraordinary times.
While this is a historical novel, I do not claim to capture in a single story the complexity of the fragile convivencia of people of different faiths that existed across Iberia in the 1480’s. From such a vast human experience an infinity of stories is possible. This work is in the tradition of the Portuguese saudade—a story of nostalgic longing for a past that witnessed inter-faith friendships as well as enmity. When taught at the elementary level, history shows us how to group people neatly into boxes. What interests me, is the fluidity of human interactions among different groups. I also am passionate about restoring awareness of multicultural heritage, in particular, patrimony that regimes have tried to destroy.
The Lamps of Albarracín has a spiritual subtext. For readers so inclined, it offers an exploration of the Hidden, drawing upon the Zohar, Torah, Talmud, Sephardic Siddur and Commentary, as well as the Quran and the writings of the Muslim poet philosophers of Spain and Persia. As Reyna exclaims, there is so much more to the world than we can ever imagine. Is beauty a revelation? Do our souls shine with the same light? These were spiritual preoccupations of that time. Their relevance today is for you to decide. The lamps in this novel belong to us all.