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Mephisto's Waltz

Mephisto's Waltz

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By Sergio Pitol 
Translated from the Spanish by George Henson

Pitol gained legendary status first as a short story writer. This, his first collection in English, showcases his greatest stories. 

Publication Date: January 22, 2019

Paperback: 9781941920831
eBook: 9781941920817


"One of Mexico's most culturally complex and composite writers." —Publishers Weekly

From the renowned Mexican literary master and author of the Trilogy of Memory (Deep Vellum) comes Mephisto's Waltz, bringing together the best short stories from celebrated writer Sergio Pitol's oeuvre. The Xavier Villaurrutia award-winning collection includes the titular story, Pitol's personal favorite. Selected by the author, each story is a glimpse into the works that first gained Pitol his status as one of the greatest living Mexican writers and showcases the evolution of his unique literary style.

Biographical Note

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 the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious Spanish-language literary prize, often called the “Spanish language Nobel," in 2005.

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.


“Translating the twists and turns and folds of Sergio Pitol’s sentences must have been no easy feat, which is why George Henson deserves a medal for his work here. Henson renders Pitol’s sentences in a rich mix of formality and informality—fitting for a writer who was both a lawyer and diplomat, someone so used to exacting methods of communication.” —Greg Walkin, Literal Magazine

“A dizzying and, at times, disorienting read, yet surely this is what caused Pitol to light up an already-lit Latin scene . . . Pitol’s biggest leaps forward—nesting stories inside one another, analyzing his writing like a critic, blurring the line between life and art—test the limits of what bookfolk today like to call autofiction . . . Together, the fragments add up to a broad snapshot of a time and place and, in hindsight, make the narrative gymnastics of Bolaño seem inevitable.” —Robert Rea, The Southwest Review

“This collection spans decades in Pitol’s career, and the stories found within it are set in numerous countries, giving a fantastic sense of the dizzying life of their author. Pitol’s storytelling often takes storytelling itself as the subject, and the winding and complex tales here fantastically evoke different modes of memory and narrative.” —Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders

“Known for transcending genres and styles, Pitol’s writing stretched beyond the traditional magical realism of Latin America to include surrealist, irreverent turns that were both dark in their truth and light in their playful structure.” —Laura Farmer, The Gazette

"His literature reflects the droll and ironic constant of his observations... Pitol knew how to see others, and he managed to reconcile and reflect very different worlds." Elena Poniatowska, author of The Heart of the Artichoke

"Pitol is a writer of another kind: his importance lies on the page, in the creation of his own world, in his ability to shed light on the world." Daniel Saldaña Paris, author of Among Strange Victims

"Pitol’s short stories, essays and crime novels merge fiction with memoir in an imaginative swirl of contemplation and reflection." Paulina Villegas, The New York Times