23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Juan Gómez Bárcena
© Isabel Wagemann

Juan Gómez Bárcena

The Spanish author, literary critic and lecturer Juan Gómez Bárcena was born in 1984 in Santander. He studied literary theory and comparative literature as well as history at the Complutense University of Madrid. He augmented his training with philosophy studies at the National University of Distance Education (UNED).

His first volume of stories »Los que duermen« (tr. Those who sleep) appeared in 2012. Two years later he published his critically acclaimed first novel »El cielo de Lima« (2014), which was translated into German and published in 2016 under the title »Der Himmel von Lima«. The text, which is divided into four chapters named according to genre (comedy, love story, tragedy, poem), recounts a famous episode in Spanish literary history from the year 1904 through the correspondence between the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and an imaginary female admirer in Lima, who is actually the invention of two rich, Peruvian would-be poets. Eager to have a signed copy of the author’s newest publication, they write to the future recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature while posing as the fictional young lady. Jiménez is enthralled by her letters and writes her back. What then follows is a long and sustained transatlantic exchange of letters. The beautiful stranger soon becomes the poet’s muse to whom he dedicates his poetry. Yet Bárcena’s debut is more than just a picaresque novel. With linguistic precision and narrative ease he also addresses the societal conditions in Lima at the outset of the 20th century, underscores the inseparability of life and literature, and shows how readers – in light of the meaninglessness of their own lives – allow themselves to be seduced by literature and, indeed, can become lost in it. »Just think about it: the Germans, who are so pragmatic, shoot themselves in the head over love; but that’s because of Goethe, of course.« In 2017 Bárcena published his novel »Kanada« (tr. Canada), which features a Holocaust survivor. Bárcena refrains from precisely specifying the novel’s time frame, suggesting – as he has in other texts – the circularity of historical processes: »Time is my theme as a writer. I believe in its cyclical nature, that human beings don’t change much and that history is a process of eternal repetition.«

Bárcena’s work has occasioned several Spanish literature prizes. He is the editor of a collection of stories by young authors under 30 years of age and teaches creative writing in Madrid, where he also lives.


Los que duermen

Salto de Página

Madrid, 2012

Der Himmel von Lima


Zürich, 2016

[Ü: Steven Uhly]


Sexto Piso

Madrid, 2017


Zürich, 2018

[Ü: Steven Uhly]