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.
electric streetlights have come on, and behind the windowpanes in the poor neighborhoods, the flames of candles and oil lamps have begun to flicker. It smells like noodles and white rice. In that building teeming with Chinese, it always smells like noodles and white rice, and sometimes a little like opium too. “What about that pretty girl?” “What about that little boy who’s playing?” “What about that coachman beating his horse?” They keep pressing each other for a long time, even after the
earth.” But he must persist, paging through the manuscripts until he manages to turn the past into what it is supposed to be. Don Augusto has inherited the whites’ prejudices along with their money and manners, and it is always jarring for him to look in the mirror after having loudly declared in a café that the Indians must inevitably be slaves because of the blood running through their veins. A genealogist convinced him that records of those illustrious dead could be found in the parish
that her son must still be somewhat agitated after a certain unpleasant incident at the port from which he still has a number of visible wounds, look, look, there on the poor boy’s face. Don Augusto clears his throat and says that of course that position too bears quite careful consideration. And then there’s Señor Almada, who, rather than being offended, bursts out laughing. “You sound just like my daughter,” he says, oddly jovial. “You know, dear Elizabeth has her head crammed full of these
important one, the one that trumps all others, is never to swim against love’s tide. But whose love? I asked him. He laughed, of course—what could he say? I don’t buy it, I don’t buy it . . .” As for advice, the Professor hadn’t said much. He’d only laughed again and noted that Georgina sounded ill, quite gravely ill, those coughs and chills in her chest are a bad sign this time of year, she might very well be dying on them. Wouldn’t that be liberating? he’d added with a wink. And so José needs
on the very last page, like in those flea-market novels that always end with an unexpected pardon from the Crown. Or the discovery of a hidden treasure. Or a mounted charge against the enemy’s rear guard, led by a general who’s never even been mentioned before. That’s called deus ex machina, is it not? Well, there you go, then: perform a deus ex machina if that’s what you want, and the hell with your novel—and the poem too. Have you forgotten about the poem? What will the Maestro write if