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“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

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Friday, October 7, 2016

The Poet and the Figment

I am still catching up from everything that accumulated while I was in the holidaying/non-routine/non-scheduled mode of late summer. (And, yes, I know it is now October and that it has not been late summer for some time now.) It seems as though I spend a lot of my time catching up on blogs that get neglected and feeling guilty about not spending more time on promoting The Three Towers of Afranor. Now, however, it is time to put all that aside (well, most of that aside) and get focused on the next book, the one that continues the story of young Dallas Green, which began in Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead.

Something else that distracts me from getting more writing done is the fact that I always want to do more reading. So many books and so little time.

I did finish reading a book just lately, and it was quite an intriguing read. Penned by Juan Gómez Bárcena, a thirtysomething Spaniard, it takes its title, The Sky Over Lima, from an early 20th century poem written by the Nobel Prize-winning Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez. He had a long and prolific career until his death in 1958, but a fascinating footnote is that in his twenties he fell victim to an epistolary hoax. He received a letter from a Georgina Hübner in Lima, Peru, praising his poetry and asking him if he might send her some of his books. He complied, and the two carried on a correspondence that led Ramón Jiménez to become infatuated with his long-distance pen pal to the point that he actually made plans to travel 6,000 miles to visit her.

It turned out, however, that Georgina never existed. She was the creation of two young men whose initial aim was to acquire the poet’s books, which were not available in Peru. When they saw that Ramón Jiménez was smitten with her, they carried on the charade.

Gómez Bárcena tells the story from the point of view of the two young Limeños, José and (mainly) Carlos. He explores the social and artistic milieu of the time and what may have been going through their minds as they carried on their deception. In his telling, these aspiring but artistically hopeless poets find themselves in the improbable position of forming an actual work of art, i.e. a compelling narrative, out of reality. They have done nothing less than create a virtual novel in which both their imaginary Limeña and the real-life poet are characters. As Gómez Bárcena describes the reality within his book becoming a novel, his own narration becomes a commentary on itself. It’s all very meta.

As someone who has written my own book about young male friends getting into trouble while negotiating the treacherous shoals of adulthood (and who has carried on my own long-distance correspondence with a beloved Limeño), I found the book great fun. Not only is it about getting caught up in one’s own youthful fantasies, but it is also about the inexorable process of maturing and submitting to banal reality.

Because I am lazy, I did not read the book in Spanish. So I must give kudos to Andrea Rosenberg for her artful English translation. Her interpretation felt very faithful and reliable.

Now that I am properly inspired by someone else’s writing, it is high time to get back to my own authoring.