The Art of Flight


By Sergio Pitol
Translated from the Spanish by George Henson

The maestro of Mexican literature published in English for the first time in his masterpiece: a multigenre literary memoir reflecting on a life lived through literature.

“Pitol is not just our best living storyteller, he is also the strongest renovator of our literature.” – Álvaro Enrigue, author of Sudden Death

Publication Date: March 17, 2015

Paperback: 9781941920060
Ebook: 9781941920077



The Art of Flight, originally published in 1997, is the first novel in Sergio Pitol’s “Trilogy of Memory,” a collection of essays and stories that blends the genres of memoir and creative essay in an imaginative swirl of reflection and contemplation. Pitol, considered Mexico’s greatest living author, was honored for his lifetime achievements with the 2005 Cervantes Prize, considered the Spanish language’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. From the 1960s through the 1990s Pitol worked as a cultural attaché in Mexican embassies throughout the world, and served as ambassador to Czechoslovakia. An erudite scholar of literary history and world culture, Pitol is also renowned for his translations from Russian, Polish, English, and German into Spanish, including Joseph Conrad, Jane Austen, and Witold Gombrowicz. A unique, timeless, international literary voice in the mold of Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Jorge Luis Borges, Pitol’s work has been translated into more than ten languages.  The Art of Flight is Pitol’s first novel published in English.

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In Europe, I held various jobs, and at times I managed to survive without one. I moved frequently from one side of the famous wall whose appearance marked my arrival to the other. The thread that ties these years together, I’ve always known, is literature. All my personal experiences, in the end, have converged. For many years, my experiences traveling, reading, and writing merged into a single experience. The trains, the boats, and the airplanes have allowed me to discover worlds that were either wonderful or sinister, but all of them were surprising. Travel was the experience of the visible world; reading, on the other hand, allowed me to undertake an inner journey whose itinerary was not confined to space but rather let me move freely throughout time. Reading meant accompanying Mr. Bloom to the taverns of Dublin at the beginning of this century, Fabrice del Dongo through post-Napoleonic Italy, Hector and Achilles through the streets of Troy and the military camps that for many years surrounded it. And writing meant the possibility of embarking toward an elusive goal and fusing—thanks to that dark, inscrutable, and much-talked about alchemy one comes closer to the process of creation—the outside world and that subterranean one that inhabits us.


“Sergio Pitol’s “The Art of Flight” — a beautiful book with no genre — has to be read.” — Álvaro Enrigue, “By the Book” for the New York Times

“To call The Art of Flight autobiography, essay, or memoir is an understatement. Life, fiction, memories, and readings intertwine in this book with astonishing ease, and the result is a volume that reads like a novel…Sergio Pitol is one of the great Spanish-speaking authors from recent history, mentor and model for many writers from Spain and Latin America.” — Daniel Saldaña París, Publishers Weekly

“Masterful. . . . Known for questioning the limitations of language, Pitol uses The Art of Flight to chronicle his young life. . . . He swirls together memories with poetic reflection, in a way that feels at home in America’s memoir culture, but without this obsession with nonfiction.” — The Dallas Observer
“A book as unique and remarkable as its author.” Rosie Clarke, Music & Literature

“One of Mexico’s most culturally complex and composite writers.” — Publishers Weekly

Included in El País’s “100 Best Books in the Last 25 Years”

“Pitol is probably one of Mexico’s most culturally complex and composite writers. He is certainly the strangest, most unfathomable and eccentric. . . . [His] voice . . . reverberates beyond the margins of his books.” — Valeria Luiselli, author of Faces in the Crowd

“Reading him, one has the impression . . . of being before the greatest writer in the Spanish language in our time.” — Enrique Vila-Matas

“[The Art of Flight] is the most celebrated of Pitol’s novels. . . . It travels through readings—from Antonio Tabucchi to [William] Faulkner and Thomas Mann—through cities, films, notebooks and recordings, melancholy memories, hypnosis, and dreams.” — Letras Libres

“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.” Mark Haber, bookseller at Brazos Bookstore

“[The Journey] and the preceding volume — The Art of Flight — are some of the best to be published by a small press in the last few years.” — Matt Pincus, Bookslut

“Whilst the reflections on Pitol’s life as a writer are thoroughly enjoyable and, at time, gripping, the book also includes a reading list to die for. His influences are too numerous to mention and there are anecdotes about certain influential writers, his own creative journey being altered by certain works, and in-depth analysis of other books.. . . A “novel” that covers politics (free trade, unemployment), artistic creation, critics, sociology, travelogue and so much more.” — Tony, Messenger Booker

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