From the famous Mexican author, Sergio Pitol, comes his 1988 classic translated by George Henson. Taming the Divine Heron, tells the semi-autobiographical story of a novelist working on his newest masterpiece. The protagonist struggles to tell the perfect story–his own, imagined protagonists mere imitations of the likes of Lord Jim and Alyosha Karamavoz. To help eradicate writer’s block, Pitol uses his vessel to praise his own favorite authors. Pitol applauds Bakhtin’s world building, Gogol’s “carnivalesque [literary] breath”, and Dante’s dizzying intensity. The character finds a muse in Marietta Karapetiz who he aptly dubs Dante C. de la Estrella, and the two debate the literary greats.
As the pair attempt to pull from the techniques of the world’s best writers, Pitol creates a love letter to literature from around the globe while simultaneously telling his own magical story. To quote Pitol’s protagonist, “the quality of the story, its effects, its brilliance, its intensity, ma[k]e the most absurd circumstances plausible”. Taming of The Divine Heron, second in a trilogy including already-published TheLove Parade (Deep Vellum, 2022), houses history, hyperrealism, myth, folklore, and memoir; to read Pitol is to appreciate the power of language.
Sergio Pitol Demeneghi (1933-2018) was one of Mexico’s most influential and well-respected writers, born in the city of Puebla. He studied law and philosophy in Mexico City, and spent many years as a cultural attaché in Mexican embassies and consulates across the globe, including Poland, Hungary, Italy, and China. He is renowned for his intellectual career in both the field of literary creation and translation, with numerous novels, stories, criticisms, and translations to his name. Pitol is an influential contemporary of the most well-known authors of the Latin American “Boom,” and began publishing his works 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 Spanish-language literary prize, often called the “Spanish language Nobel.”
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.