Review Deep Vellum | April | The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol and translated by George Henson


Deep Vellum is a non-profit publisher that primarily publishes works of translation. I purchased a ten-book subscription, e-book and paperback bundle. My total was $103, so they come out to about $10 for each book and I get both the e-book and paperback. They mail two books every two months. I reviewed two Deep Vellum books back in February and one was great and the other was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read.

The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol.jpgThe first book of theirs I read in their most recent shipment was The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol and translated by George Henson. You guys, either I’m stupid or this book was junk. One of the two.

Goodreads describes Pitol as “the greatest living Mexican writer, winner of the Juan Rulfo and Cervantes prizes, is profoundly influential to the current generation of Mexican writers, including Valeria Luiselli and Yuri Herrera.”

I don’t know about all that but I can tell you that this is the third in a series he wrote and it’s supposed to be part autobiography and part fiction. According to the description provided by Deep Vellum, it’s a book that tells the life story of a man (Pitol) through the lens of the books he’s read throughout his life and the impact they’ve had on him.

Sounds great, yes? Yes! But it’s not. It started out with a really dry introduction in which the person writing the introduction just dryly named books they’d read and the boring impact they’d had on them in an extremely dry and academic way. And then 50 pages into this introduction I was like, How long is this fucking introduction, and then it turned out that it wasn’t an introduction but was actually the book.

So dull you guys. So, so dull. I’m sure, positive, 100% understanding of the fact that there’s an audience for this unnecessarily academic volume of boring, boring prose but it’s not me.

Rating: 2/10. So glad this is over but it only bored me to death and didn’t actively make me angry so it still gets two stars.

Recommended for: Super boring academics; insomniacs.

Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace testNo.

Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: Yes / yes / no / no

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