She lives in Mexico City. La piel del cielo. Elena Poniatowska. The Skin of the Sky is the fascinating and haunting story of the life of Lorenzo de Tena, a brilliant Mexican astronomer. Born in the s, the illegitimate son of a businessman and a peasant woman, Lorenzo lives happily with his mother, brothers, and sisters on their mother's farm on a small plot of land outside Mexico City. When Lorenzo's mother dies, his father brings the children to live with him in the capital.
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Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. Sort order. Start your review of La piel del cielo. The Mexican astronomer is one of those obsessive intellectuals who work 80 hours a week and ride roughshod over their colleagues and assistants in the service of science. View all 3 comments. Elena Poniatowska, also known by her family as "la princesse rouge" not only for being a descendant of the last king of Poland Stanislaw August Poniatowski but also for her well known left ideals and speaking up for human right causes, is today one of the best female writers that proudly represent Mexico's literature.
She was born in France but fled to Mexico when she was 10 years old along with her mother and a sister who escaped from a Europe being devastated by the second world war. Poniatows Elena Poniatowska, also known by her family as "la princesse rouge" not only for being a descendant of the last king of Poland Stanislaw August Poniatowski but also for her well known left ideals and speaking up for human right causes, is today one of the best female writers that proudly represent Mexico's literature.
Poniatowska was then raised and influenced greatly by Mexico's cultural diversity, a culture that produced such a deep impact on her.
This made her a young avid reader, but she was interested in reading only books that could be useful, books that could help her shape her ideals and her biggest goal became to help her home country and its people through the best weapon of all A journalist, a novelist, a poet, a social activist, an intellectual.
Her work has been dedicated to represent Mexico's culture and people, its government and its politics, its current affairs and speak for those who don't have a voice. Elena Poniatowska represents a voice for humanity, a voice for the oppressed, the poor, the women, a voice against prejudice, corruption and those in power, she represents that voice that demands justice and urges a change in Mexico. One of her best known books is "La noche de Tlatelolco", in which she narrates the student massacre in Mexico City through testimonies of relatives and witnesses.
She has also written biographies, one based on the life of the Nobel laureate Octavio Paz; and has also written many interview narratives of people such as Subcomandante Marcos or Diego Rivera among others important political or historical figures of Mexico. This time, I decided to submerge myself in "La piel del cielo" or "The skin of the Sky".
In this amazing novel, Poniatowska tells us the story of Lorenzo de Tena. The story opens beautifully with a boy asking his mother where does the world ends, to what his mother replies that it doesn't and she will take him further away than what his eyes can simply see and so a journey of science and wonder begins.
Lorenzo, the illegitimate son of a wealthy businessman but at same time a distant father, is constantly motivated by a poor but somehow intelligent mother who always takes her time to explain things to this little boy of a curious and brilliant mind, a boy that pursues to answer the many riddles of our universe and our place in it.
It is through his mother, that Lorenzo develops a love and such an immense fascination for stars. After facing many adversities in life and struggling with personal sacrifices, Lorenzo goes to Harvard and becomes quite a successful astronomer, but albeit this professional success he feels empty and out of love. Almost at the end of the novel, an important female character to the story appears: Fausta Rosales.
But, can she finally help Lorenzo understand what love really is? Poniatowska not only succeeds in giving us an extraordinary novel of a boy who faces many challenges and obstacles throughout his life in order to follow his lifelong passion for science but she also manages to describe the scientific details quite impressive. It was also a delight to read so many wonderful historical figures such as the great astronomer E. Halley taking part in the novel as a fictional character, characters with whom you will enjoy many philosophical discussions.
It is important to say that the author was actually married to a Mexican astronomer named Guillermo Haro and we can definitely see the big influence of him in the life of Lorenzo, on whom the character was mostly based.
The author also projects the difficulties of wanting to do first class research in a country such as Mexico. It's a novel of struggle and of passion, it offers a philosophical and a political view but most of all Lorenzo de Tena was the life of a boy I found truly inspiring thanks to the exquisite words of this talented and admired writer. Elena Poniatowska, as Octavio Paz and my favorite Carlos Fuentes offer that window of Mexico's beautiful culture, its history and its reality through the wonderful art of writing.
Highly recommended. View all 16 comments. Mar 04, Alejandra rated it did not like it. I just couldn't finish this book. I fought with myself trying to do it but it was hopeless, I was done with it by half of the book: Lorenzo is the most irritating character I have ever read, he was misogynist and pretentious. The only thing I enjoy about this book was the scientifc backround of astronomy and the telescope, but it was written in a really boring way, it just didn't feel like it was worth the time to read.
When Fausta came in I was excited because I thought she would be a good char I just couldn't finish this book. When Fausta came in I was excited because I thought she would be a good character but it just let me down like any other thing of this book. Something involving hamartias and tragic plot structures could be made out of that, but it doesn't feel as conscientiously taut as the best tales of hubris do, which may be an unfair call but is honestly all that I have at my disposal.
There are enough references packed into these pages to make for a solid collection of fo 3. All in all, it's a shame that this book didn't manage to hold itself together, as there aren't many pseudo-bios about scientists out there especially about those as sociopolitically conscientious in an admittedly limited sense as Lorenzo de Tena, pseudonym for an actual historical figure close to the author.
There was great potential to be had, but it all devolved into a morass of gendered nonsense and soap opera stifling in the end, and if all that was intended to render Tena into a less than sympathetic character, that could've been achieved without sacrificing the narrative in the process.
That's why it's such a shame that the book didn't turn out too well, especially since maintaining this sort of immersive experience is a tricky business indeed. This is no Memoirs of Hadrian , Place of Greater Safety , or Autumn of the Patriarch , but it could have been a slice of 20th century from plantation mistresses to South African observatories with delvings into communism, postcolonialism, astronomy, physics, philosophy, sex, queerness, and a bevy of other scenes and sensations teeming amongst the still persistently undervalued landscapes of greater Mexico.
I've recently seen Poniatowska's name elsewhere, but I don't think I'll be picking anything else up of hers unless especially motivated. I understand the need to get into a character's head, but the last few pages of this were more out of character odious than anything else, and it really didn't finalize the closing of what had otherwise been an impressive, even monumental life. I like giving women in translation a chance every once in a while, and in light of my reception here, I'm glad Poniatowska's doing fine in her home country, as I'll be spending my reading time elsewhere.
She has a pseudo-bio of Leonora Carrington out that intrigues, but I really do need to read some actual Carrington first before I start chasing any non-self-imposed mythos relating to her as subject. I didn't like it as much as I hoped to, but it goes to show how much in translation risks going unread due to various assumptions, consciously contrived or otherwise. I wouldn't especially recommend this to anyone unless someone was really ken on some of the names references, as while I definitely learned a lot, the whole point of this work existing didn't quite establish itself, especially during the last flurry of ridiculous pages.
Ah well. On to the next. Shelves: fiction. The Skin of the Sky, is, in my opinion, weakened by its singular focus on Lorenzo de Tena, a relentless workaholic and essentially self-educated astronomer who proves to be an all around difficult man to be around.
Over the course of the novel, many intriguing characters are introduced along with much fascinating information about astronomy and Mexican education, history, science, politics and gender relations but all is subsumed by the monomaniacal de Tena, a brilliant scientist but also a da The Skin of the Sky, is, in my opinion, weakened by its singular focus on Lorenzo de Tena, a relentless workaholic and essentially self-educated astronomer who proves to be an all around difficult man to be around.
Over the course of the novel, many intriguing characters are introduced along with much fascinating information about astronomy and Mexican education, history, science, politics and gender relations but all is subsumed by the monomaniacal de Tena, a brilliant scientist but also a damaged and damaging human being.
Multiple points of view might have allowed more insight into his character and made him both more interesting and more sympathetic. That said, the novel is more a depiction of Mexico, struggling to integrate a luminous pre-colonial past into a not at all certain post-colonial future, than it is the story of one man.
If you are looking for a good, long epic tale about a man who discovers himself through astronomy, Mexican politics, family and of course, a good woman, this is your book.
It never gets sentimental and the language is lush and moving. The book starts with young Lorenzo de Tena wondering at the world, "Mama, what is at the end of the world? He gets a good ed If you are looking for a good, long epic tale about a man who discovers himself through astronomy, Mexican politics, family and of course, a good woman, this is your book. He gets a good education and ends up at Harvard studying astronomy.
During the Second World War, Mexico builds an astronomical observation station with the help of America which lures Lorenzo back to home. Poniatowska raises a variety of polemic themes about Mexico from its own corruption to its competiveness with America. The dichotomy of Mexico reminded me of Carlos Fuentes' work: who is a Mexican? I enjoyed her reflective statements such as "the sun lies to us by creating a lush planet, because when one leaves earth, there is nothing but dead space.
In short, it covers a life. Lorenzo is presented a a cool, collected man who spends his life building his career in science. Underneath, something is missing. The story is not new, but I enjoyed this particular different angle. An enjoyable read.
La Piel del Cielo
La piel del cielo