Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz
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
Occupation Writer, poet, diplomat
Nationality Mexican
Period 1931–1965
Literary movement Surrealism, Existentialism
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature

Octavio Paz Lozano (Spanish pronunciation: [okˈtaβjo pas loˈsano]; March 31, 1914 – April 19, 1998) was a Mexican writer, poet, and diplomat, and the winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature.


Early life and writings

Paz was born to Octavio Paz Solórzano and Josefina Lozano. His father was an active supporter of the Revolution against the Díaz regime. Paz was raised in the village of Mixcoac (now a part of Mexico City) by his mother Josefina (daughter of Spanish immigrants), his aunt Amalia Paz, and his paternal grandfather Ireneo Paz, a liberal intellectual, novelist, publisher and former supporter of President Porfirio Díaz. He studied at Colegio Williams. Because of his family's public support of Emiliano Zapata, they were forced into exile after Zapata's assassination. They served their exile in the United States.

Paz was introduced to literature early in his life through the influence of his grandfather's library, filled with classic Mexican and European literature.[1] During the 1920s, he discovered the European poets Gerardo Diego, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and Antonio Machado, Spanish writers who had a great influence on his early writings.[2] As a teenager in 1931, under the influence of D. H. Lawrence, Paz published his first poems, including "Cabellera". Two years later, at the age of 19, he published Luna Silvestre ("Wild Moon"), a collection of poems. In 1932, with some friends, he founded his first literary review, Barandal. By 1939, Paz considered himself first and foremost a poet.[citation needed]

In 1935, Paz abandoned his law studies and left for Yucatán to work at a school in Mérida for sons of peasants and workers.[3] There, he began working on the first of his long, ambitious poems, "Entre la piedra y la flor" ("Between the Stone and the Flower") (1941, revised in 1976), influenced by T. S. Eliot, which describes the situation of the Mexican peasant under the greedy landlords of the day.[4]

In 1937, Paz was invited to the Second International Writers Congress in Defense of Culture in Spain during the country's civil war, showing his solidarity with the Republican side and against fascism. Upon his return to Mexico, Paz co-founded a literary journal, Taller ("Workshop") in 1938, and wrote for the magazine until 1941. In 1938 he also met and married Elena Garro, now considered one of Mexico's finest writers. They had one daughter, Helena. They were divorced in 1959. In 1943, Paz received a Guggenheim fellowship and began studying at the University of California at Berkeley in the United States, and two years later he entered the Mexican diplomatic service, working in New York for a while. In 1945, he was sent to Paris, where he wrote El Laberinto de la Soledad ("The Labyrinth of Solitude"), a groundbreaking study of Mexican identity and thought. In 1952, he travelled to India for the first time and, in the same year, to Tokyo, as chargé d'affaires, and then to Geneva, in Switzerland. He returned to Mexico City in 1954, where he wrote his great poem "Piedra de sol" ("Sunstone") in 1957 and Libertad bajo palabra (Liberty under Oath), a compilation of his poetry up to that time. He was sent again to Paris in 1959, following the steps of his lover, the Italian painter Bona Tibertelli de Pisis. In 1962 he was named Mexico's ambassador to India.

Later life

In India, Paz completed several works, including El mono gramático (The Monkey Grammarian) and Ladera este (Eastern Slope). While in India, he came into contact with a group of writers called the Hungry Generation and had a profound influence on them. In 1963 he broke up with Bona and married Marie-José Tramini, a French woman who would be his wife for the rest of his life. In October 1968, he resigned from the diplomatic corps in protest of the Mexican government's massacre of student demonstrators in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco.[5] He sought refuge in Paris for a while and returned to Mexico in 1969, where he founded his magazine Plural (1970–1976) with a group of liberal Mexican and Latin American writers. From 1970 to 1974 he lectured at Harvard University, where he held the Charles Eliot Norton professorship. His book Los hijos del limo ("Children of the Mire") was the result of those lectures. After the Mexican government closed Plural in 1975, Paz founded Vuelta, a publication with a focus similar to that of Plural, and he continued to edit that magazine until his death. He won the 1977 Jerusalem Prize for literature on the theme of individual freedom. In 1980 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard, and in 1982 he won the Neustadt Prize. A collection of his poems (written between 1957 and 1987) was published in 1990. In 1990, he was awarded the Nobel Prize.[6] In India he met the Hungryalist poets and was of immense help to them during their 35 month long trial.[citation needed]

Octavio Paz died of cancer in 1998.

Guillermo Sheridan, who was named by Paz as director of the Octavio Paz Foundation in 1998, published a book, Poeta con paisaje (2004) with several biographical essays about the poet's life up to 1968.


A prolific author and poet, Paz published scores of works during his lifetime, many of which are translated into other languages. His poetry, for example, has been translated into English by Samuel Beckett, Charles Tomlinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Muriel Rukeyser and Mark Strand. His early poetry was influenced by Marxism, surrealism, and existentialism, as well as religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. His poem, "Piedra de sol" ("Sunstone"), written in 1957, was praised as a "magnificent" example of surrealist poetry in the presentation speech of his Nobel Prize. His later poetry dealt with love and eroticism, the nature of time, and Buddhism. He also wrote poetry about his other passion, modern painting, dedicating poems to the work of Balthus, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Antoni Tàpies, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roberto Matta. As an essayist Paz wrote on topics like Mexican politics and economics, Aztec art, anthropology, and sexuality. His book-length essay, The Labyrinth of Solitude (Spanish: El laberinto de la soledad), delves into the minds of his countrymen, describing them as hidden behind masks of solitude. Due to their history, their identity is lost between a pre-Columbian and a Spanish culture, negating either. A key work in understanding Mexican culture, it greatly influenced other Mexican writers, such as Carlos Fuentes. Ilan Stavans wrote that he was "the quintessential surveyor, a Dante's Virgil, a Renaissance man".[7]

Paz wrote the play "La hija de Rappaccini" in 1956. The plot centers around a young Italian student who wanders about Professor Rappaccini's beautiful gardens where he spies the professor's even more beautiful daughter, Beatrice. He is horrified when he discovers the poisonous nature of the garden's beauty. Paz adapted the play from a 1844 short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne that was also entitled "Rappaccini's Daughter".

Octavio Paz

He combined Hawthorne's story with sources from the Indian poet Vishakadatta and influences from Japanese Noh theatre, Spanish autos sacramentales and the poetry of William Butler Yeats. The play's opening performance was designed by the Mexican painter Leonora Carrington. First performed in English in 1996 at the Gate Theatre in London, the play was translated and directed by Sebastian Doggart and starred Sarah Alexander as Beatrice. In 1972, Surrealist author André Pieyre de Mandiargues translated the play into French as La fille de Rappaccini (Editions Mercure de France). Mexican composer Daniel Catán turned the play into an opera in 1992.

Paz's other works translated into English include several volumes of essays, some of the more prominent of which are Alternating Current (tr. 1973), Configurations (tr. 1971), The Labyrinth of Solitude (tr. 1963), The Other Mexico (tr. 1972); and El Arco y la Lira (1956; tr. The Bow and the Lyre, 1973). Along with these are volumes of critical studies and biographies, including Claude Lévi-Strauss and Marcel Duchamp (both, tr. 1970), and The Traps of Faith, an analytical biography of the Mexican 16th-century nun, feminist poet, mathematician, and thinker Sor Juana de la Cruz.

His works include the poetry collections ¿Águila o sol? (1951), La Estación Violenta, (1956), Piedra de Sol (1957), and in English translation the most prominent include two volumes which include most of Paz in English: Early Poems: 1935–1955 (tr. 1974), and Collected Poems, 1957–1987 (1987). Many of these volumes have been edited and translated by Eliot Weinberger, who is Paz's principal translator into American English.

Political thought

Originally Paz showed his solidarity with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, but after learning of the murder of one of his comrades by the Republicans themselves he became gradually disillusioned. While in Paris in the early 1950s, influenced by David Rousset, André Breton and Albert Camus, he started publishing his critical views on totalitarianism in general, and against Joseph Stalin in particular.

In his magazines Plural and Vuelta, he exposed the violations of human rights in the communist regimes, including Castro's Cuba. This brought him much animosity from sectors of the Latin American left. In the prologue to Volume IX of his complete works, Paz stated that from the time when he abandoned communist dogma, the mistrust of many in the Mexican intelligentsia started to transform into an intense and open enmity. Nonetheless, Paz always considered himself a man of the left; the democratic, "liberal" left, not the dogmatic and illiberal one.

There can be no society without poetry, but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot.
Octavio Paz[8]

In 1990, during the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin wall, Paz and his Vuelta colleagues invited several of the world's writers and intellectuals to Mexico City to discuss the collapse of communism, including Czesław Miłosz, Hugh Thomas, Daniel Bell, Ágnes Heller, Cornelius Castoriadis, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Jean-François Revel, Michael Ignatieff, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Edwards and Carlos Franqui. The Vuelta encounter was broadcast on Mexican television from 27 August to 2 September.[citation needed]

Octavio Paz has been critical of most aspects of the Zapatista uprising.[9] He spoke broadly in favor of a "military solution" to the uprising of January 1994, and hoped that the "army would soon restore order in the region". With respect to President Zedillo's offensive in February 1995, he signed an open letter that described the offensive as a "legitimate government action" to reestablish the "sovereignty of the nation" and to bring "Chiapas peace and Mexicans tranquility" [10]

Further reading


  • Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda: Clash of Literary Titans/Americas Magazine (Organization of American States), July, 2008/Jaime Perales Contreras
  • Mexican Writers on Writing featuring Octavio Paz. Edited by Margaret Sayers Peden (Trinity University Press, 2007).
  • The writing in the stars : a jungian reading of the poetry of Octavio Paz / Rodney Williamson., 2007
  • Octavio Paz / Nick Caistor., 2006
  • The philosophy of yoga in Octavio Paz's poem Blanco / Richard J Callan., 2005
  • "The Sadean Poetics of Solitude in Paz and Pizarnik." Latin American Literary Review / Rolando Pérez., 2005
  • Shipwreck and deliverance : politics, culture and modernity in the works of Octavio Paz / Todd Lutes., 2003
  • Poetry criticism (Gale Group): volume 48 / David Galens., 2003
  • Octavio Paz (Modern Critical Views) / Harold Bloom, 2002
  • From Art to Politics: Octavio Paz and the Pursuit of Freedom (trans. Del arte à la politica, FCE, 2004) / Grenier, Yvon, 2001
  • Octavio Paz: A Meditation / Stavans,Ilan., 2001
  • Tribute to Octavio Paz / Mexican Cultural Institute of New York., 2001
  • Understanding Octavio Paz / Quiroga, Jose., 1999
  • The critical poem: Borges, Paz, and other language-centered poets in Latin America / Running, Thorpe., 1996
  • Octavio Paz and the language of poetry: a psycholinguistic approach / Underwood, Leticia Iliana., 1992
  • Orientalism in the Hispanic literary tradition: in dialogue with Borges, Paz, and Sarduy / Kushigian, Julia., 1991
  • Octavio Paz, the mythic dimension / Chiles, Frances., 1987
  • Toward Octavio Paz: a reading of his major poems, 1957–1976 / Fein, John M., 1986
  • Octavio Paz (Twayne's World Authors Series) / Wilson, Jason., 1986
  • Two essays on Latin American political myths : Octavio Paz and Che Guevara / James Wallace Wilkie., 1981
  • Octavio Paz, homage to the poet / Chantikian, Kosrof., 1980
  • Octavio Paz, a study of his poetics / Wilson, Jason., 1979
  • Aspects of surrealism in the work of Octavio Paz / José Gabriel Sánchez., 1976
  • Octavio Paz: critic of modern Mexican poetry / Phillips, Allen Whitmarsh., 1973
  • The universalism of Octavio Paz / Gullón, Ricardo., 1973
  • Octavio Paz : or the revolution in search of an actor / George Gordon Wing., 1973
  • The perpetual present; the poetry and prose of Octavio Paz / Ivar Ivask., 1973
  • The poetic modes of Octavio Paz / Rachel Phillips., 1972
  • Mexico as theme, image, and contribution to myth in the poetry of Octavio Paz / Judith Ann Bernard., 1964
  • Octavio Paz poetry, politics, and the myth of the Mexican / George Gordon Wing., 1961


  • Luz espejeante. Octavio Paz ante la crítica. Selección de Enrico Mario Santí. 2009
  • Andar fronteras. El servicio diplomático de Octavio Paz en Francia (1946–1951) / Froylan Enciso., 2008
  • Boletin Octavio Paz / Luis Rios. 2008-
    • Consuelo Hernández."Octavio Paz. La poesía como supremo ejercicio de la libertad. Voces y perspectivas en la poesía latinoamericana del siglo XX. Madrid: Visor, 2009.
  • Consuelo Hernández."Signos en rotación, una teoría poética." El Nacional. Caracas, Venezuela. October 2, l982. C.2.
  • Consuelo Hernández.El arte combinatoria en los poemas de Octavio Paz." El Nacional. Caracas, Venezuela. September 25. C.2.
  • El filo del ideal: Octavio Paz en la Guerra Civil / Guillermo Sheridan., 2008
  • Octavio Paz y Pablo Neruda: Historia de una amistad/Revista Americas.Organizacion de los Estados Americanos., julio 2008/Jaime Perales Contreras.
  • Octavio Paz y el circulo de la revista Vuelta/Jaime Perales Contreras., 2007
  • Introduction to Octavio Paz, Suenos en libertad, escritos políticos / edited by Yvon Grenier., 2001
  • Poeta con paisaje: ensayos sobre la vida de Octavio Paz / Guillermo Sheridan., 2004
  • Octavio Paz : la dimensión estética del ensayo / Héctor Jaimes., 2004
  • Espiral de luz : tiempo y amor en Piedra de sol de Octavio Paz / Dante Salgado., 2003
  • Octavio Paz y la poética de la historia mexicana / D A Brading., 2002
  • Camino de ecos : introducción a las ideas políticas de Octavio Paz / Dante Salgado., 2002
  • Octavio Paz: una visión de la poesía de occidente : hermenéutica y horizonte simbólico / Marta Santibáñez., 2002
  • Las primeras voces del poeta Octavio Paz, 1931–1938 / Anthony Stanton., 2001
  • El árbol milenario : un recorrido por la obra de Octavio Paz / Manuel Ulacia., 1999
  • Author, autoridad y autorización : escritura y poética de Octavio Paz / Rubén Medina., 1999
  • Tránsito poético e intellectual de Octavio Paz / Abelardo M García Viera., 1999
  • Dos grandes latinoamericanos / Karla I Herrera., 1999
  • Bibliografia critica de Octavio Paz / Hugo J. Verani, 1997
  • El acto de las palabras : estudios y diálogos con Octavio Paz / Enrico Mario Santí., 1997
  • Volver al ser : un acercamiento a la poética de Octavio Paz / Mario Pinho., 1997
  • Octavio Paz : viajero del presente / Roberto Hozven., 1994
  • Octavio Paz en sus "Obras completas" / Adolfo Castañón., 1994
  • Festejo : 80 años de Octavio Paz / Adolfo Castañón., 1994
  • Octavio Paz : poética e identidad / Fidel Sepúlveda Llanos., 1993
  • Octavio Paz : el espejo roto / Roland Forgues., 1992
  • Lo desconocido es entrañable : arte y vida en Octavio Paz / Rafael Jiménez Cataño., 2008
  • Octavio Paz : trayectorias y visiones / Maya Schärer-Nussberger., 1989
  • El elemento oriental en la poesía de Octavio Paz / Jung Kim Kwon Tae., 1989
  • El cuerpo y la letra : la cosmologia poetica de Octavio Paz / Javier Gonzalez., 1988
  • Polaridad-unidad, caminos hacia Octavio Paz / Margarita Murillo González., 1987
  • La cabeza rota : la poética de Octavio Paz / Jorge Arturo Ojeda., 1983
  • Octavio Paz / Pere Gimferrer., 1982
  • Surrealismo en la poesía de Xavier Villaurrutia, Octavio Paz, y Luis Cernuda. (México 1926–1963) / Olivia Maciel Edelman., 2008
  • Lecturas de Octavio Paz / Pere Gimferrer., 1980
  • Variables poéticas de Octavio Paz / Diego Martínez Torrón., 1979
  • Octavio Paz / Alfredo A Roggiano., 1979
  • Reinvención de la palabra : la obra poética de Octavio Paz / Eusebio Rojas Guzmán., 1979
  • La poesía hermética de Octavio Paz / Carlos Horacio Magis., 1978
  • Poesía y conocimiento : Borges, Lezama Lima, Octavio Paz / Ramón Xirau., 1978
  • La divina pareja: historia y mito: valoración e interpretación de la obra ensayística de Octavio Paz / Jorge Mora., 1978
  • Octavio Paz, poesía y poética / Monique J Lemaître., 1976
  • Las estaciones poéticas de Octavio Paz / Rachel Phillips., 1976
  • Homenaje a Octavio Paz / Juan Valencia., 1976
  • Octavio Paz / Jorge Rodríguez Padrón., 1975
  • Aproximaciones a Octavio Paz: un simposio / Angel Flores., 1974


  • Nobel Prize for Literature
  • Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
  • Cervantes Prize
  • National Literature Prize (Mexico)
  • Premio Mondello (Palermo, Italy)
  • Alfonso Reyes Prize
  • Neustadt International Prize for Literature
  • Jerusalem Prize
  • Menendez y Pelayo Prize
  • Alexis de Tocqueville Prize
  • Xavier Villaurrutia Award
  • Doctor Honoris Causa (Harvard)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa (National Autonomous University of Mexico)


  1. ^ Guillermo Sheridan: Poeta con paisaje: ensayos sobre la vida de Octavio Paz. México: ERA, 2004. p. 27. ISBN 968.411.575.X
  2. ^ Jaime Perales Contreras: "Octavio Paz y el circulo de la revista Vuelta". Ann Arbor, Michigan: Proquest, 2007. p.46-47. UMI Number 3256542
  3. ^ Guillermo Sheridan: Poeta con paisaje: ensayos sobre la vida de Octavio Paz. México: ERA, 2004. p. 163. ISBN 968.411.575.X
  4. ^ Wilson, Jason (1986). Octavio Paz. Boston: G. K. Hall. 
  5. ^ Preface to The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz: 1957–1987 by Eliot Weignberger'
  6. ^ Literature 1990
  7. ^ Stavans (2003, p. 3). Octavio Paz: A Meditation, University of Arizona Press.  between going and coming is the best poem by this author!
  8. ^ Paz, Octavio. "Signs in Rotation" (1967), The Bow and the Lyre, trans. Ruth L.C. Simms (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973), p. 249. 
  9. ^ Huffschmid (2004) pp127-151
  10. ^ Huffschmid (2004) p145

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • 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 — (31. marts 1914 20. april 1998) var en mexicansk forfatter og diplomat. Paz blev født i Mexico City. I sin ungdom blev han opfordret af Pablo Neruda til at skrive. Han kæmpede for republikanerne i den spanske borgerkrig. Han blev en af de… …   Danske encyklopædi

  • Octavio Paz — (31 de marzo de 1914 20 de abril de 1998). Poeta, ensayista y diplomáticomexicano, uno de los poetas en español más importantes de la segunda mitad del siglo XX, comparable por su influencia a Juan Ramón Jiménez, Vicente Huidobro, César Vall …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Octavio Paz — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Paz. Octavio Paz Activités Poète Essayiste Diplo …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Octavio Paz — Gobierno Ningún pueblo cree en su gobierno. A lo sumo, los pueblos están resignados. Hablar El agua habla sin cesar y nunca se repite. Libertad Sin democracia la libertad es una quimera …   Diccionario de citas

  • 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

  • Octavio Paz: Nobel Lecture — ▪ Primary Source       Nobel Lecture, December 8, 1990       (Translation)       In Search of the Present       I begin with two words that all men have uttered since the dawn of humanity: thank you. The word gratitude has equivalents in every… …   Universalium

  • Literaturnobelpreis 1990: Octavio Paz —   Der mexikanische Lyriker und Essayist erhielt den Nobelpreis für »seine leidenschaftliche, von sinnlicher Intelligenz und humanistischer Integrität geprägte Dichtung«.    Biografie   Octavio Paz, * Mexiko, 31. 3. 1914, ✝ Mexiko 19.4.1998;… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Postdata (Octavio Paz) — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Postdata es un libro de ensayos del escritor (Mexicano) Octavio Paz. Se publicó en 1970 en México por la Editorial Siglo XXI editores. ISBN 968 23 0394 X. México El libro tiene 179 páginas. En la introducción al… …   Wikipedia Español

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.