Sergio Pitol: The Past alone opens up the Promise of the Future

Sergio Pitol 2

Been reading Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight today.

Sergio Pitol Demeneghi (born 18 March 1933 in Puebla) is a prominent Mexican writer, translator and diplomat. In 2005 he received the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world. Pitol studied law and literature and served in the Mexican foreign service at Rome, Belgrade, Warsaw, Paris, Beijing, Moscow, Prague, Budapest and Barcelona. He started publishing novels in the late 1960s. He has been an advocate of human rights in Mexico and a critic of political orientations that place the state above the individual.

His friend Enrique Vila-Matas the great author of Spain says of Sergio: “Life and literature are fused in Sergio Pitol. And I wonder now if there is anything more Cervantesesque than his passion for confusing life and literature. … And to whomever asks about his style, I will say that it consists in fleeing anyone who is so dreadful as to be full of certainty. His style is to say everything, but to not solve the mystery. His style is to distort what he sees. His style consists in traveling and losing countries and losing one or two pairs of eyeglasses in them, losing all of them, losing eyeglasses and losing countries and rainy days, losing everything: having nothing and being Mexican and at the same time always being a foreigner.”

A passage struck me about the need to recognize the past before the future itself can open up again:

Lately, I have been very aware that I have a past. Not only because I have reached an age when the greater part of the journey has been traveled, but also because I now know fragments of my childhood that until recently were off-limits to me. I can now distinguish the various stages of my life with sufficient clarity— the autonomy of the parts and their relation to the whole— which I was previously unable to do. I have begun to remember with respect and emotion not only my youth but that of others because of the innocence it represents— its blindness, intransigence, and destiny. That alone allows me to conceive of an infinite, unknown, and promising future.1

This sense of an innocence in past relations opening one toward the infinite possibilities of an unknown and promising future makes me still believe there is hope in the world. And the loss of everything that one is and one’s things, one’s attachments; this too, can open up that innocence without which the future remains closed. The ability to just let go, to let things fall away is an innocence almost too difficult to bare; and, yet, in this loss one discovers by circuitous and strange routes that one’s future holds the promise of better returns, stranger and far away. Like an old pair of glasses one has lost and found again, lost and found again… a repetition that keeps one realizing that in the end one never truly loses anything. Things have a habit of returning in the unlikely events of one’s future.

1. Pitol, Sergio (2015-03-17). The Art of Flight (Kindle Locations 268-273). Deep Vellum Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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