Octavio Paz

(1914—1998) Mexican poet and essayist

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Mexican diplomat, poet, and winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Born in Mexico City, Paz attended the National University of Mexico and published his first volume of verse, Luna Silvestre (‘Wild Moon’), when he was only nineteen. His subsequent writings fill over thirty volumes. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) Paz fought for the Republican government and in 1938 attended the historic Madrid Writers' Congress. His professional career as a diplomat led eventually to his appointment as Mexican ambassador to India (1962–68), where he was able to deepen his interest in Asian religions. Paz resigned from the diplomatic service in protest at the violent police suppression of student demonstrators during the 1968 Mexico Olympics. He subsequently taught at Texas, Harvard, and Cambridge, was involved with several literary journals, and established the cultural magazine Vuelta.

Apart from poetry and literary criticism, Paz produced academic studies of the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and of the French artist Marcel Duchamp. His most widely read work, however, is The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950), an historical exploration of Mexican culture. Paz argued that, as a result of the brutalities of the Spanish conquest, much that is unique to Mexico is obscured by the masks of silence, violence, and dissimulation. He believed that it would only be revealed by the transforming powers of love and creativity. His Collected Poems appeared in 1989.

Subjects: Literature.

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