The Sky Over Lima
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—Laura Esquivel, bestselling author of Like Water for Chocolate and Malinche
“Intoxicating…I’ll be thinking of these characters, what they longed to create and what they managed to despoil, for a long time.” —Helen Oyeyemi
A retelling of a fantastical true story: two young men seduce Nobel laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez with the words of an imaginary woman and inspire one of his greatest love poems.
José Gálvez and Carlos Rodríguez are poets. Or, at least, they’d like to be. Sons of Lima’s elite in the early twentieth century, they scribble bad verses and read the greats: Rilke, Rimbaud, and, above all others, Juan Ramón Jímenez, the Spanish Maestro. Desperate for Jímenez’s latest work, unavailable in Lima, they decide to ask him for a copy.
bursts into applause. Dozens of wealthy poets cheering first the death of capital, and then the death of poetry. José and Carlos don’t say anything. And if they do, nobody hears them. ◊ Juan Ramón is a genius. Nobody doubts that, least of all José and Carlos. But the Maestro had his father die on him, and how could you not write sad arias if your father died, especially if you happened to have loved him; who wouldn’t have the poetic material for pastorals and violet souls and distant gardens
her, she won’t be afraid. That if he says so, perhaps there is no sin in contemplating the innocent beauty of a human body. And so she moves to the window and watches the women without condemnation, without fear, without guilt. It goes basically like this: Elizabeth looks at the whores; José looks at Elizabeth; Carlos looks at José; Madeleine looks at Carlos. As that look stretches on, Elizabeth strives to seem dignified and beautiful at once. And perhaps she manages it, because José has just
you miserable. You spoke of the bowels of that piano where you hide your secrets, these humble letters of mine among them. Of your tiny, fragile chest, which seems to grow even smaller when your father approaches. How could I not understand you, I who between these walls feel the presence of my own father’s ghost? His dead eyes that now see everything, against which keys and drawers are now useless. His threadbare words reviving old accusations: abandoning my law studies, and the mad notion of
views, much as it pains them. How long have they considered themselves poets? Not even they could say for sure. Perhaps that’s what they’ve always been, albeit unknowingly—the possibility of this pushes them to reexamine the trivial anecdotes of their childhoods with fresh eyes. Did Carlos not utter his first poem that morning when, on an outing to the countryside, he asked his governess whether the mountains had a mommy and daddy too? And the gaze with which José, having barely spoken his first
the previous letter and then all collected together in the hold of the same ship, and those letters seem to change everything. In the first one, Juan Ramón talks for the first time about long-ago love affairs; he even refers to proper names, certain doleful farewells, kisses whose memory no longer causes him pain, feelings that one believes to be everlasting and, as it turns out, my lady, wither as quickly as they blossom. The second speaks of the (imprecise) boundary between love and