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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Sky Weeps for Me

Sergio Ramírez

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To purchase The Sky Weeps for Me

Title: The Sky Weeps for Me
Author: Sergio Ramírez
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2020)
Length: 256 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Sky Weeps for Me - US
El cielo llora por mí - US
The Sky Weeps for Me - UK
The Sky Weeps for Me - Canada
Il pleut sur Managua - France
Der Himmel weint um mich - Deutschland
El cielo llora por mí - España
  • A Nicaraguan Noir
  • Spanish title: El cielo llora por mí
  • Translated by Leland H. Chambers (with Bruce McPherson)

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Our Assessment:

B : solid slice of modern Nicaragua, if otherwise a fairly standard police-procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
El Cultural . 15/5/2009 Joaquín Marco
Le Monde diplomatique . 6/2011 Françoise Barthélémy
El País . 3/4/2009 Julio Ortega

  From the Reviews:
  • "No sin ciertos rasgos de humor, en un paisaje urbano degradado, del que se ofrecen detalles, con el declarado antiimperialismo del héroe, la rivalidad de las bandas, la duplicidad de algunos personajes y la corrupción que alcanza la cúpula del poder político, la novela nunca pierde su interés. (...) El relato se desarrolla gracias a un diálogo pleno de coloquialismos, fluido, y los rasgos de un estilo que descubren al brillante narrador (.....) Lo policíaco no aparece aquí como un corsé, sino como los cuartetos y tercetos del soneto tradicional. En la nueva forma descubrimos la sociedad del email y la miseria del subdesarrollo." - Joaquín Marco, El Cultural

  • "De son pays, il livre un tableau où le ridicule le dispute à la vulgarité." - Françoise Barthélémy, Le Monde diplomatique

  • "El relato policial es la forma que asume una pregunta por la veracidad. Discurso híbrido, está hecho del lado de la lectura en un español que confronta la corrupción, la mentira y la violencia. En El cielo llora por mí, la novela policial logra imaginar, a pesar de todas las razones en contra, una certeza compartible." - Julio Ortega, El País

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Sky Weeps for Me is set in a Nicaragua still marked by the conflicts following the Sandinista overthrow of Somoza decades earlier. (Author Sergio Ramírez was vice-president of Nicaragua from 1985 until the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) was defeated in the 1990 elections.) Quite a few of the characters were active in the cause; among themselves they still sometimes use the old aliases from their time in the "urban resistance" -- for example, Inspector Dolores Morales is also known by the pseudonym 'Artemio'. Morales, who works in the Drug Investigations arm of the national police, also carries another reminder of yesteryear's struggle: he lost his left leg in the fighting, and uses a prosthesis.
       The struggles of the present day are largely of a different nature. Among them are the problem of drug crime -- which also involves a foreign power's continued meddling, the American DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) working together with the locals on this boundary-busting problem; the local DEA liaison, Matt Revilla, also has his own nickname, 'Chuck Norris'. Morales is one of the good guys, and his department seems largely free of police corruption, at least of the grossest kind; the head of the department, Commissioner Umanzor Selva -- also a former guerilla combatant -- is even (so Morales): "too honest" -- at least for any hopes for advancement: as in many places, the truly honest stand no chance in higher government.
       The case Morales wades into here involves the discovery of a quite fancy yacht -- fifty feet, at least -- found run aground and empty in the Pearl Lagoon on the Atlantic side of the country. Deputy Inspector Bert Dixon reports on the finding to Morales -- and then on the what he can piece together about who and what had been on the boat, something that isn't all too easy because the locals of course immediately looted what little there was on board. One significant finding: "There was a corpse on that yacht. Or at least someone was hurt".
       Yes, someone died aboard. One of the few things left behind on board -- too trivial for anyone to bother disposing of or stealing it -- is a book -- Tomás Eloy Martínez's The Tango Singer. And while the book itself isn't that revealing, beyond that it is marked as having been bought in Managua, Morales does get the good advice that: "You should never forget to flip through a book that you've found", as there's a calling card stuck between the pages. It belongs to one Sheila Marenco, an employee of Caribbean Fishing -- and, yes, she turns out to be the victim.
       The one who gave Morales the tip to check in the book is Doña Sofía, the orderly who cleans Morales' office, among others, at the station. She is also a former comrade; she also happens to be Morales' neighbor, in the El Edén barrio -- her house one that had been: "expropriated from a captain of the National Guard", back in the day, half of which she got: "as a beneficiary of the urban renewal". Though her position at the police is basically janitorial, she has no qualms about adding her two cents to any investigative work, whether asked for or not. She's also willing to go undercover, and as part of this investigation offers to root around at a casino that has connections to the case -- taking a (better-paid) job as cleaner there. As both neighbor and colleague -- if of a different sort than the other officers around him -- Doña Sofía makes an amusing unusual sort of secondary sidekick for Morales.
       Much of the time Morales goes around on his own, but Dixon is the primary helper on this case -- one which proves to be rather complex and convoluted. A suitcase Sheila was transporting back from abroad adds to the confusion -- containing, as it does, a wedding dress and, well hidden, quite a bit of money. The fact that the suitcase doesn't appear to have been on the yacht -- though Sheila does -- adds to some of the confusion.
       By the time the first real witness they have gets murdered as well, it's pretty clear someone has something they really want to hide -- and that they want to confuse the tracks as much as best possible. They do a pretty good job: as yet another Inspector -- this one from Homicide -- complains, way into the plot: "I don't like novels like Hopscotch, I'm still waiting for someone to tell me everything in the right order". In fact, however, The Sky Weeps for Me accurately reflects a typically complicated criminal case, with a variety of actors and motives, and how the pieces slowly come together; in that sense, it's a by-the-book police procedural (though complete with some unexpected and some lucky (and unlucky) turns) Morales is methodical, and limps his way forward. That larger-scale drug running efforts are involved -- and that a former head of State Intelligence has his fingers in this game -- comes as no great surprise.
       It all makes for a decent thriller: a solid mix of characters, a complex but plausible crisscrossing of various motives and ambitions, and all sorts of complications, from the past and present (including Sheila's personal situations). A (near-)contemporary Nicaragua, mired in the mediocrity of modern capitalism (complete with an under-budget police), most of the revolutionary idealism long lost, is nicely presented -- with the novel opening and closing with scenes of symbolic religious pilgrimage, a statue of Our Lady of Fátima doing the rounds of the country in the opening chapter, and Santo Domingo de Guzmán being similarly venerated in the closing one.
       Ramírez writing can feel a bit forced here, trying too hard to adapt to a genre that doesn't feel completely natural to him. He checks everything off your standard hardboiled list -- from the dialogue-heavy presentation to the world-weary attitudes, colorful characters, and various passions -- but it doesn't flow entirely naturally. There's too much where he tries too hard -- over-writing, rather than paring down where he could have. It's not bad -- it gets across a lot -- but it's just too much -- e.g.:

With so little traffic at that hour he could walk down the middle of the street, leaving behind the pale gleams of television sets peeking out one after another through the gratings in front of windows on both sides, while being careful not to catch the heel of the prothesis shoe in the holes left by missing cobblestones.
       Some of this goes a long way, and Ramírez heaps a lot on; taut The Sky Weeps for Me isn't -- even as he holds back from going all-in on the expansive approach, which probably would have felt more natural to him and might have worked better, too.
       The local color, and especially the feel -- especially of the aging (former-)revolutionary generation, in a nation that hasn't managed to live up to the ideals they once fought for -- are the novel's biggest selling point. The Sky Weeps for Me is fine, if unremarkable, simply as a police procedural, but captures and conveys enough to be worthwhile as a glimpse of the foreign -- only a slice of contemporary Nicaragua, but a fairly solid and deep one.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 October 2020

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The Sky Weeps for Me: Reviews: Reviews: Sergio Ramírez: Other books by Sergio Ramírez under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramírez was born in 1942 and served as vice president of the country from 1985 to 1990.

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© 2020 the complete review

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