The Art of Flight (Sergio Pitol)

Article by mark

I don't have a lot to say about THE ART OF FLIGHT because my exuberance and passion for its existence leaves me somewhat speechless. I don't have a lot to say because I have too much to say. Sometimes zeal foils language, and this is one such case. 


Sergio Pitol is a celebrated name in his native Mexico, a winner of the prestigious Cervantes Prize. He has lived in Warsaw, Rome, Barcelona, Beijing, Paris and Moscow, both as a translator and a diplomat but, I think most importantly, as a reader. I emphasize reader, because THE ART OF FLIGHT is a book about reading. It is a multi-genre hybrid, described as a memoir on a "life lived through reading." It is a memoir and yet, it is so much more. An entire library is contained within its pages. Reflections on the architecture of Venice can lead to a chapter on translating the Hungarian great Gombrowicz. Meditations on Joseph Conrad to Anton Chekhov to Jorge Luis Borges. The heady politics of 1960’s Mexico crop up, as does the construction of the Berlin Wall. The simultaneous existence of living and reading in the 20th century cohabitate brilliantly in this book.


If you are one of those who believes the experience must be lived to be true, that Alice and the Cheshire Cat are merely words on a page, that Ahab’s biblical diatribes are just hyperbole from the brow of Melville, and that these in themselves do not count as experience--if you are one who does not believe in the transportive and life-affirming nature of literature, than this book is not for you.


That being said, this book is for everyone else. Dallas-based publisher Deep Vellum has the bragging rights for being the first publisher to bring Pitol into English, with more Pitol books on the way.Translator George Henson does an incredible job translating Pitol’s style into beautifully rendered English.  A few years ago, author Valeria Luiselli was asked which writer should be translated into English that hadn’t yet been, and her unequivocal answer was Sergio Pitol. Lucky for us, that is no longer true. The art of flight, indeed.

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The Art of Flight Cover Image
By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Enrique Vila-Matas (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781941920060
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - March 17th, 2015

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