The Art of Flight (Paperback)

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By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Enrique Vila-Matas (Introduction by)
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Staff Reviews

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 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.

— From Mark recommends...


"Pitol is unfathomable; it could almost be said that he is a literature entire of himself." -- Daniel Salda a Paris, author of Among Strange Victims

The debut work in English by Mexico's greatest and most influential living author and winner of the Cervantes Prize ("the Spanish language Nobel"), The Art of Flight takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the world's cultural capitals as Sergio Pitol looks back on his well-traveled life as a legendary author, translator, scholar, and diplomat.

The first work in Pitol's "Trilogy of Memory," The Art of Flight imaginatively blends the genres of fiction and memoir in a Borgesian swirl of contemplation and mystery, expanding our understanding and appreciation of what literature can be and what it can do.

Sergio Pitol Demeneghi (b. 1933 in Puebla), one of Mexico's most acclaimed writers and literary translators, studied law and philosophy in Mexico City, and served for over thirty years as a cultural attach in Mexican embassies and consulates across the globe, which is reflected in his diverse and universal writing. In recognition of the importance of his entire canon of literary work, Pitol was awarded the Juan Rulfo Prize in 1999 (now known as the FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages), and in 2005 the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in the Spanish language world.

George Henson is a literary translator and assistant professor of translation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey. His translations include Cervantes Prize laureate Sergio Pitol's Trilogy of Memory, The Heart of the Artichoke by fellow Cervantes recipient Elena Poniatowska, and Luis Jorge Boone's Cannibal Nights. His translations have appeared variously in The Paris Review, The Literary Review, , BOMB, The Guardian, Asymptote, and Flash Fiction International. In addition, he is a contributing editor for World Literature Today and the translation editor for its sister publication Latin American Literature Today.

About the Author

Sergio Pitol Demeneghi is one of Mexico's most acclaimed writers, born in the city of Puebla in 1933. He studied law and philosophy in Mexico City. He is renowned for his intellectual career in both the field of literary creation and translation, and is renowned for his work in the promotion of Mexican culture abroad, which he achieved during his long service as a cultural attache in Mexican embassies and consulates across the globe. He has lived perpetually on the run: he was a student in Rome, a translator in Beijing and Barcelona, a university professor in Xalapa and Bristol, and a diplomat in Warsaw, Budapest, Paris, Moscow and Prague. Pitol is a contemporary of the most famous authors of the Latin American "Boom," and began publishing novels, stories, criticism, and translations in the 1960s. In recognition of the importance of his entire canon of work, Pitol was awarded the two most important prizes in the Spanish language world: the Juan Rulfo Prize in 1999 (now known as the FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages), and in 2005 he won the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in the Spanish language world, often called the "Spanish language Nobel." Deep Vellum will publish Pitol's Trilogy of Memory in full in 2014-2015 (The Art of Flight; The Journey; The Magician of Vienna), marking the first appearance of any of Pitol's books in English.

George Henson is currently completing a PhD in Humanities (with an emphasis on literary and translation studies) at the University of Texas at Dallas. He received his BA from University of Oklahoma, and his MA from Middlebury College. From 2003 to 2010, Mr. Henson taught Spanish language, literature, and translation at Southern Methodist University. He has also taught Spanish language and literature courses at the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas. Prior to teaching at SMU, Mr. Henson taught for six years at Collin College in Plano. Henson's primary scholarly interests lie in literary translation and translation theory. His translations of short stories by Mexican author Elena Poniatowska have appeared in Nimrod, Translation Review, The Literary Review, and Puerto del Sol. His translation of Carlos Pintado's short story "Joy Eslava" was published by Zafra Lit, and his translations of poems by Francisco Moran have appeared in Sojourn and are forthcoming in The Havana Reader (Duke University Press). Mr. Henson's translation of Elena Poniatowska's short story collection Tlapaleria will be published in 2011 by Alligator Press. His current projects include translating short story collections by Mexican writer Luis Jorge Boone and Spanish writer Andres Neuman. Henson has been invited to read papers on topics related to literary translation and queer literature at conferences hosted by the American Comparative Literature Association, New York University, and Emory University.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781941920060
ISBN-10: 1941920063
Publisher: Deep Vellum Publishing
Publication Date: March 17th, 2015
Pages: 424
Language: English