22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Sergio Pitol

Sergio Pitol was born in 1933 in Puebla, Mexico. He studied Law and Literature in Mexico-City, entered into diplomatic service for his country in 1960, and worked as cultural attach� in Warsaw, Paris and Budapest, and he was the Mexican Ambassador to Czechoslovakia up until 1988.  He also worked as a translator, professor of literature and writer.  As a result of his translations the repute of authors such as Chekhov, Gombrowicz, Henry James, Joseph Conrad and Jane Austen has been substantially raised in Mexico.  Since 1967 he has continuously published novels and essays.  He is regarded as one of the most distinguished authors in Latin America.  The central theme of his work is the framing of the grotesque within a carnival-like atmosphere wherein sadness is vanquished by ridicule. In interviews Pitol often emphasises the restorative nature of literature, which helped him as a child to recover from the loss of his parents and a severe case of Malaria. His authorship also owes something to this theme: “As compensation for the grey world of regulated working life I launched myself into parody and nonsense.”

The novel ‘La vida conyugal’ (1991; Engl: Married Life) tells the horror story of an unhappy love affair and provides a pleasurable insight into the depths of the human soul. The protagonist, who has escaped her humble origins through marriage, is a bigoted and hysterical person.  Damned to a life of Chekhovian idleness, she searches for alleviation in educative civic cultural activities.  Ultimately she stumbles upon the idea of killing her husband, and together with her lover she makes murder plans inspired by detective novels. Infact only she gets hurt by the execution of these plans.  Finally, in her old age � after a time of separation and impoverishment � she symbolically renews her marriage with her husband by mutually putting on the rings again.

The novel creates a multifacetted picture of Mexican society in the sixties and seventies in a similar way that ‘El desfile del amor’ (1985; Engl: Love Parade) did.  This detective story and political thriller highlights the time of World War II. Here a Mexican scholar attempts to clarify a murder case which occurred 30 years previously. During the investigations and discussions with the people involved at the time a baroque picture of eccentric characters in a horror show of passions is revealed.

Pitol�s most recent work is a travelogue: ‘El viaje’ (2001; Engl: The Journey) describes Russia during the last years of communist rule.  The atmosphere of departure at the time of Perestrojka, descriptions of the architecture and culture, as well as references to Russian history and literature are interwoven to create a vivid and compact portrait.  At the same time it succesfully evokes the author�s elective affinity to the Russian soul. Pitol has received numerous prizes including the Premio Herralde de Novela and the renowned Premio Juan Rulfo.  The author lives in Xalapa, Veracruz.

� international literature festival berlin