The sky over Lima by Juan Gómez Bárcena
Original title – Cielo de Lima
Translator Andrea Rosenberg
Source – review copy
Well I kick of this Spanish lit month with a new name to most English readers Juan Gomez Barcena. This was his debut novel it won the Ojo critico prize and was shortlisted for another major prize in Spain. He studied comparative literature , philosophy and History. He was also on a list of the best Spanish writer under thirty in Spain.
At first it’s just a letter drafted many times: dearest friend, respected poet, most esteemed sir, a different opening for every sheet or paper that ends up in a crumpled ball under the desk, glory of Spanish literature, most distinguished Ramon Jimenez, peerless bard, comrade. The next day the mulatta servant will sweep up the wads of paper scattered across the floor, thinking they’re the poems of the young master of the house, carlos rodriguez.
The opening as they try as themselves to write to Jimenez before making up Georgina to write to him .
This is one of those books that tells a real event in a novel form. The event surrounds the writing of letters to the Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez from two fellow poets in Peru well in Lima. The two poets Jose and Carlos decide on a plan to get the latest work from Jimenez which has yet to reach the book shops of lima they write to him as a Peruvian lady called Georgina. what follows in the book is a series of letter between the two (well three in reality) as Jimenez falls for Gerogina and the world that is described Peru in 1904 a town changing through the eyes of a young woman makes Jimenez fall for the place and woman. A tale of love across the sea that inspired the poet to write some love poems about this woman.We see the two poets abandon their own poems to grab on to the coat tails of Jimenez and his poems.
So he has to write about love. But what does he know about that?It could be that Carlos is more apprehensive about this than he initially seemed and we must attribute to him a second fear: the terror that the story of Juan Ramon and Georgina will ultimately reveal nothing more than how little his own life is worth.becasue all good fiction is rooted in genuine emotion, as the professor put it, which means that to write about love a novelist must look to his experiences, make use of everything he’s learned in a woman’s arms.
Carlos wonders what the letters will be made of when it turns to love letters .
An interesting and strange work to open this spanish lit month. It takes a corner of history and opens it up back to a time when a written word meant more letters were the way to keep in contact and people could fall in love over the written word . This is one for the fans of Bolano or Vila-Matas poets in a wild town of lima in the day remind me of Bolano world of poets in Mexico and the fact this was a true story some what Jimenez had exchange letters with a woman from Peru.Brought back memories of the way Vila-Matas uses places and the writers associated with them to place his stories in context.A fun debut novel that shows the power of the written word over men and the power books can have over other men as that is how the story started. A wonderful opening gambit for this Spanish lit month.
What have you planned for Spanish lit month ?