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The Sky Over Lima (El cielo de Lima)



Original Language: Spanish | 320 pp. | May 2014

2 Seas Represents: USA and the Netherlands.

Rights Sold: USA (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), UK (Oneworld), Italy (Frassinelli), Brazil (Alfaguara), Germany (Secession Verlag), Greece (Kastaniotis), the Netherlands (Wereldbibliotheek, two-book deal).

English translation available


The Sky Over Lima is a magician’s conjuring through which we are made to see our own artifice. As Cristóbal says to Carlos over drinks, placing a hand on the young man’s shoulder, ‘Open your eyes, my friend; love, as you understand it, was invented by literature, just as Goethe gave suicide to the Germans. We don’t write novels; novels write us. – ZYZZYVA

An intriguing tale of transatlantic catfishing…Bárcena grounds the literary games in a richly detailed, early 20th-century Lima and its cast of secondary characters: dock workers, prostitutes, café-haunting literati. Its lightly ironic tone darkening as it proceeds, the novel sensitively explores how a literary prank shapes the sentimental, romantic, and moral education of Carlos. – Publishers Weekly

Based on a true story, Spanish poet and writer Bárcena’s first novel transforms fact with cinematographic imagination, recreating the scenery and moods of Lima at the turn of the twentieth century with inimitable precision.  Booklist

Charming…Bárcena’s novel is both a love letter to the creative process and a contemplation on the sometimes-blurred line between life and art. – Kirkus 

Here’s a tale with the subtlest of stings in it, dark wit and telescopic perspective aplenty. And then there’s the intoxicating folly of the games that the protagonists play with fantasy and fact, malice, tenderness, ambition, envy and other forces that strike at our most vulnerable selves. I’ll be thinking of these characters, what they longed to create and what they managed to despoil, for a long time. -Helen Oyeyemi, acclaimed author of Boy, Snow, Bird and others

Open it at any page and read a couple of paragraphs. It’s very likely you’ll buy the book afterwards. -Ekaitz Ortega, C

Juan Gómez Bárcena reinvents this true story with extraordinary wisdom and flair and achieves the impossible: to make us empathize with…the jesters from whose point of view the novel is written. -Óscar Esquivias, Diario de Burgos

With this book, Gómez Bárcena has shown himself to be among the most promising contemporary authors. A delightful read. –Txani Rodríguez, Pompas de papel

Gómez Bárcena delights with easy and well-composed prose, spot on for the country, the period and the story he narrates. A wonderfully-constructed plot. -Sofía Castellanos, A Cubierta Libros

A highly recommendable read. Don’t miss out on this novel. -Emilio González Bou, Propera parada: cultura

1904. Two young Peruvians are trying to get their hands on signed copies of their “Maestro”, the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez’s works. In their undeveloped, alcohol-fuelled wisdom they decide to write to the poet under the more alluring guise of a non-existent young lady from Lima, Georgina Hübner. The outcome of this well-documented literary hoax was a long epistolary correspondence, culminating in a passionate and unrequited love whose tragic ending would later be depicted in Ramón Jiménez’s poetry collection, Laberinto.

The Sky Over Lima is a wildly imaginative and vivid recreation of this powerful story, but it is also an entertaining ode to youth –in particular, the foppish youth of two turn-of-the-century rich kids, full of literary pretensions but sorely lacking in poetic sensibility. Throughout these often hilarious pages we follow José and Carlos, through the eyes of a piercingly sharp omniscient narrator, as their literary hoax unravels. From the fake bohemian taverns and garrets of Lima, to the brothels where José and Carlos will learn what stuff men and poets are made of, the novel ebbs and flows with a sure pace, all the time reminding us of the tide on which the real letters were once carried. On the way, we meet a cast of unforgettable characters —Georgina, a ship rat with a taste for envelopes, the city’s scribe come agony aunt, and the unceasingly perceptive narrator —and witness the prowess of a masterful voice in its own right – that of the author, Juan Gómez Bárcena.

Comparable to Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and Andrés Neuman’s Traveller of the Century in its light touch on literary themes, the gifted voice and male insight, The Sky Over Lima is already being recognized as one of the most assured and inventive literary novels to come out of Spain in years.



Sky Over Lima

USA (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)