Paz, Octavio

Paz, Octavio
born March 31, 1914, Mexico City, Mex.
died April 19, 1998, Mexico City

Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat.

Educated at the University of Mexico, Paz published his first book of poetry, Savage Moon, in 1933. He later founded and edited several important literary reviews. Influenced in turn by Marxism, Surrealism, existentialism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, his poetry uses rich imagery in dealing with metaphysical questions, and his most prominent theme is the human ability to overcome existential solitude through erotic love and artistic creativity. His prose works include The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950), an influential essay on Mexican history and culture. He was Mexico's ambassador to India (1962–68). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.

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▪ 1999

      Mexican poet and writer (b. March 31, 1914, Mexico City, Mex.—d. April 19, 1998, Mexico City), was Mexico's foremost man of letters and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. He wrote poems that vividly celebrated sensual experience and essays that explored Mexico's history and national character. He was noted for his clear, concise writing style, a sharp contrast to the convoluted style that had predominated in Mexican letters. Although Paz studied law at National Autonomous University in Mexico City, his literary interests found early expression. He published his first poem at age 16, founded an avant-garde magazine (Barandal) at age 17, and published his first collection of poems, Luna silvestre (Forest Moon), before he was 20. Paz read widely, especially contemporary literature, and was particularly influenced by T.S. Eliot, Saint-John Perse, and surrealist André Breton. In 1937 Paz went to Spain to observe the civil war and became acquainted with Pablo Neruda, who influenced Paz's Marxist views; three years later Paz renounced communism and broke with Neruda. He was a political centrist for the rest of his life, often criticizing the repressive Mexican government. Paz's early poetry, gathered in the 1971 collection Configurations, was considered his best. Many of his poems dealt explicitly with sex, which Paz regarded as a transcendent force. His poetic reputation reached its height with the 1957 publication of Piedra de sol (Sun Stone, 1961). In the latter half of his career, Paz continued to experiment with poetry, but increasingly his attention was given to prose. His greatest prose work was considered El laberinto de la soledad (1950; The Labyrinth of Solitude, 1961), a rumination on the Mexican national character, particularly the tension between Mexico's native Indians and the colonizing Spaniards. Paz's father had been secretary to the Indian revolutionary Emiliano Zapata; Paz, himself partially of Indian descent, retained his father's sympathy for the Indians. He also had a significant diplomatic career, beginning in 1945 and culminating with his 1962 appointment as Mexico's ambassador to India, a post he resigned in 1968 to protest the shooting of hundreds of demonstrating students at that year's Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. Subsequently he edited the Mexico City journal Plural and accepted a number of visiting professorships at various universities in the United States. A series of literary honours climaxed with the Nobel Prize, in which he was cited for his "impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity."

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▪ Mexican writer and diplomat
born March 31, 1914, Mexico City, Mexico
died April 19, 1998, Mexico City
 Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, recognized as one of the major Latin American writers of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. (See Nobel Lecture: “In Search of the Present.” (Octavio Paz: Nobel Lecture))

      Paz's family was ruined financially by the Mexican Civil War, and he grew up in straitened circumstances. Nonetheless, he had access to the excellent library that had been stocked by his grandfather, a politically active liberal intellectual who had himself been a writer. Paz was educated at a Roman Catholic school and at the University of Mexico. He published his first book of poetry, Luna silvestre (“Forest Moon”), in 1933 at age 19. In 1937 the young poet visited Spain, where he identified strongly with the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. His reflection on that experience, Bajo tu clara sombra y otros poemas (“Beneath Your Clear Shadow and Other Poems”), was published in Spain in 1937 and revealed him as a writer of real promise. Before returning home Paz visited Paris, where Surrealism and its adherents exerted a profound influence on him.

      Back in Mexico, Paz founded and edited several important literary reviews, including Taller (“Workshop”) from 1938 to 1941 and El hijo pródigo (“The Prodigal Son”), which he cofounded in 1943. His major poetic publications included No pasaran! (1937; “They Shall Not Pass!”), Libertad bajo palabra (1949; “Freedom Under Parole”), ¿Águila o sol? (1951; Eagle or Sun?), and Piedra de sol (1957; The Sun Stone). In the same period, he produced prose volumes of essays and literary criticism, including El laberinto de la soledad (1950; The Labyrinth of Solitude), an influential essay in which he analyzes the character, history, and culture of Mexico; and El arco y la lira (1956; The Bow and the Lyre) and Las peras del olmo (1957; “The Pears of the Elm”), which are studies of contemporary Spanish American poetry.

      Paz entered Mexico's diplomatic corps in 1945, after having lived for two years in San Francisco and New York, and served in a variety of assignments, including one as Mexico's ambassador to India from 1962 to 1968; in the latter year he resigned in protest over Mexico's brutal treatment of student radicals that year. In the 1970s he edited Plural, a review of literature and politics.

      His poetry after 1962 includes Blanco (1967; Eng. trans. Blanco), influenced by Stéphane Mallarmé's poetry and John Cage's theories on music; Ladera este (1971; “East Slope”), which is suffused with Paz's understanding of East Indian myths; Hijos del aire (1979; Airborn), sonnet sequences created by Paz and the poet Charles Tomlinson building on each other's lines; and Árbol adentro (1987; A Tree Within), in which many of the poems are based on works by artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg. An English-language selection, The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957–1987, was published in 1987.

      His later prose works, some originally in English, include Conjunciones y disyunciones (1969; Conjunctions and Disjunctions), a discussion of the world's cultural attitudes; El mono gramático (1974; The Monkey Grammarian), a meditation on language; and Tiempo nublado (1983; “Cloudy Weather,” translated as One Earth, Four or Five Worlds: Reflections on Contemporary History), a study of international politics with emphasis on the relationship between the United States and Latin America.

      Paz was influenced in turn by Marxism, Surrealism, existentialism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In the poetry of his maturity, he used a rich flow of surrealistic imagery in dealing with metaphysical questions. As one critic said, he explored the zones of modern culture outside the marketplace, and his most prominent theme was the human ability to overcome existential solitude through erotic love and artistic creativity. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Paz received numerous other awards, including the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious Spanish-language accolade. His Obra completas (“Complete Works”) were published in 1994.

Additional Reading
Among the many works of criticism are José Quiroga, Understanding Octavio Paz (1999); Frances Chiles, Octavio Paz, the Mythic Dimension (1987); Jason Wilson, Octavio Paz (1986); John M. Fein, Toward Octavio Paz: A Reading of His Major Poems, 1957–1976 (1986); and Rachel Phillips, The Poetic Modes of Octavio Paz (1972).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Paz,Octavio — Paz (päz, päs), Octavio. 1914 1998. Mexican writer whose essays, including The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950), and volumes of poetry, such as Sun Stone (1957), often explore the Mexican identity. He won the 1990 Nobel Prize for literature. * * * …   Universalium

  • Paz, Octavio — ► (1914 98) Poeta mexicano. Sus ideas sobre la poesía están resumidas en los ensayos El arco y la lira (1956) y Corriente alterna (1967). Es autor, asimismo, de diversas obras en verso y en prosa. Premio Cervantes de 1982 y Nobel de Literatura en …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Octavio Paz — Born Octavio Paz Lozano March 31, 1914(1914 03 31) Mexico City, Mexico Died April 19, 1998(1998 04 19) (aged 84) Mexico City, Mexico …   Wikipedia

  • Octavio Paz — Lozano Nacimiento 31 de …   Wikipedia Español

  • Octavio Paz — Lozano (* 31. März 1914 in Mixcoac, heute Mexiko Stadt; † 20. April 1998 in Mexiko Stadt) war ein mexikanischer Schriftsteller und Diplomat. Er erhielt 1990 den Nobelpreis für Literatur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Octavio Paz Lozano — Octavio Paz Octavio Paz Lozano (* 31. März 1914 in Mixcoac, heute Mexiko Stadt; † 20. April 1998 Mexiko Stadt) war ein mexikanischer Schriftsteller und Diplomat. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Paz — (La) ville de Bolivie, dans les Andes, à 3 658 m d alt.; 992 590 hab. Siège du gouv. (la cap. constitutionnelle étant Sucre) et ch. l. du dép. du m. nom. Centre comm. et industr., relié par voie ferrée au port chilien d Arica. Archevêché.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Paz — [päs; ] E also [ päz] Octavio [ō̂k tä′vyō̂] 1914 98; Mex. poet …   English World dictionary

  • Paz — Paz, Octavio (1914 1998), a Mexican poet and ↑diplomat who won the ↑Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990 …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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