March 22, 2013
Octavio Paz was a renowned poet, essayist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was recognized for being the first Mexican to win a Nobel Prize in literature. Using poetry combine with prose, Paz explored multifaceted and paradoxical forces in contemporary life, while revealing his love for Mexican history and customs as well as his interest in surreal literature, and some other literary movement of the 19th century (Octavio, Paz-biography).
Octavio Paz was a spokesperson for 20th-century Mexico, a poet whose work today exceeds his native land to connect with the world. Influenced by surrealism, Paz wrote of contradictions; but in his work opposites are blended and seen as part of the whole. Paz always used his art to establish relationships among cultures, people, and time (Hamm16).Octavio Paz was born in Mexico City in 1914, his father, a journalist and lawyer, was serving as assistant to Emiliano Zapata, a leader of the 1911 revolution. Paz's mother was from a prominent family of Spanish descent (Hamm16).
During the revolutionary turmoil of the decade of Octavio's birth, the Paz family and many others were forced to flee the country. After living in Los Angeles for a few years, Paz's family returned to Mexico City. Although the family was now poor; Paz had access in the Macao house to an expansive library and was taught by Marist brothers. He reported that he first learned the craft of writing by immersing himself in the classics of Spanish literature and the great writers of Latin America. Paz attended the National University of Mexico but left without obtaining a degree to concentrate on writing (Hamm18).
Paz was already published when he began his university studies. Several poems and stories had been printed in small regional publications. He also began publishing his own literary magazine, Barandal, at 17. Later he helped launch several other magazines, including Vuelta, one of Mexico's most influential publications. Luna Silvestre (Forest Moon), Paz's first book of poetry, was published when he was 19 (Diamond18).
At the encouragement of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Paz travelled to Spain to attend a meeting in 1937 of leftist writers. While there Paz became so involved in the Spanish civil war (1936–39) that for a period he joined a unit fighting against Francisco Franco. In 1944 Paz received a Guggenheim Fellowship that allowed him to study in the United States. There he continued his education in poetry, reading the works of Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams (Hamm17).
In 1950 Paz published one of his most influential works: a philosophical essay about the nature of the Mexican character. El laberinto de la Soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude) is part autobiography, part Mexican history, and part philosophy, all played out against the background of the dual cultural heritage of Mexico. Paz's style is often experimental at the same time that it draws on tradition. The 1953 volume Piedra de sol (Sun Stone) is a lyrical poem following the circular structure of the ancient Aztec calendar. Written in one sentence of 584 lines, the poem explores love, myth, the art of writing, and time (Diamond17). Among his diverse literary activities, Paz was an expert translator fluent in several languages, and he used this skill to help introduce upcoming writers from Latin America to the modern world by translating their work. Paz died of cancer of the spine in 1998. He had become so much of a national figure that the public announcement of his death was made by the president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo (Hamm19).
Octavio Paz is a poet and an essayist. His style of writing is inspired by his belief that poetry establishes "the secret religion of the modern age." His work displays an ever-deepening intelligence and complexity as it explores the connection of philosophy, religion, art, politics, and the role of the individual within our