The incredible adventures of the swindler Pablo of Segovia

One would hardly like to believe it, but it was to take 150 years until religious texts or pamphlets were finally replaced by secular printed matter in the size of the edition. Since the invention of letterpress printing by Johannes Gutenberg, the Bible and Martin Luther’s pamphlets have been among the best sellers. Luther was so popular that at that time a third of all printed matter was written by him.

At the beginning of the 17th century, a new type of writing began to establish itself, namely the novel. The first fictional bestseller in printed book history was Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. The sad hero of the story, with his struggle against the windmills and his faithful servant Sancho Panza, is still well known to us four centuries later.

El Buscón

Cervantes novel inspired a number of authors and in 1626 the History of the life of the Swindler, called Don Pablos, model for hobos and mirror of misers (original title: Historia de la vida del Buscón, llamado Don Pablos, ejemplo de vagamundos y espejo de tacaños) was published in Spainby Francisco de Quevedo.

Cover of the original print from 1626

The hero of the story, Don Pablos, is the son of a barber and thief, and a prostitute and witch. From an early age he learns to steal and swindle his way through life. His life takes its first tragic turn when his brother, also a thief, is locked up and whipped to death. Pablo’s desire to go to school is quickly put to an end due to his origins and the cruelty of his classmates. When his father is sentenced to death by hanging and his mother goes to prison, his desire for social advancement is strengthened all the more, but he is not granted the opportunity to achieve this in Spain and decides to go to India – i.e. America – at the end of the novel.

Comic book album

This is where the comic book Deceptive India – A Second Part of the Story of the Life of the Adventurer Don Pablo of Segovia (French title: Les Indes fourbes – Une seconde partie de l’Histoire de la vie de l’aventurier nommé don Pablos de Ségovie) continues and tells the incredible adventures of Don Pablo in South America in search of the legendary El Dorado.

Album cover of Les Indes Fourbes

The story owes its charm and elegance to the scenarist Alain Ayroles and the illustrator Joanjo Guarnido. In three chapters, Don Pablo, as miserable prisoner, tells his tormentors his life story and the search for El Dorado. The Spanish administrators who hold him prisoner want to elicit from him nothing more than the location of El Dorado, which they hope to succeed in – as they think they will.

In several surprising turns, however, the reader learns that Don Pablo’s story wasn’t quite true, and has to realize that his life has taught him some helpful skills and given him a once broken and since then flexible nose, which, thanks to the blind greed of those encountered, allows him to succeed in what is probably the greatest deception in world history.

I found the comic book album in the comic shop Librairie Bildergarte in Strasbourg and had it in my hand several times and put it back because it seemed too intimidating to me with its 160 pages. In any case, I didn’t regret buying it on my second visit to the shop.

The story is told with verve, with many entanglements and twists. The drawings themselves are superb, absolutely detailed, which is especially evident in the mass scenes. The verve with which the individual pages are designed is also striking, and the expressiveness of the faces stands out. Especially this gives the story a lot of humor and sympathy. It is a pleasure to follow the changes in the facial features from one picture to the next.

The large-format volume was published in French by Delcourt in 2019 and costs €34.90. Here is an trailer of the comical album.

In the following video the illustrator of the adventure novel, Juanjo Guarnido, offers an insight into his work on this volume:

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