Octavio Paz (Octavio Paz Lozano)

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz was introduced to literature early in his life through the influence of his grandfather’s library, filled with classic Mexican and European literature. During the 1920s, he discovered Gerardo Diego, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and Antonio Machado, Spanish writers who had a great influence on his early writings. As a teenager in 1931, 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. In 1937 at the age of 23, Paz abandoned his law studies and left Mexico City for Yucatán to work at a school in Mérida, set up for the 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 the work of T. S. Eliot, it explores the situation of the Mexican peasant under the domineering landlords of the day. In 1937, Paz was invited to the Second International Writers Congress in Defense of Culture in Spain during the country’s civil war; he showed 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 1937 he married Elena Garro, who is considered one of Mexico’s finest writers. They had met in 1935. They had one daughter, Helena, and were divorced in 1959. In 1943, Paz received a Guggenheim fellowship and used it to study at the University of California at Berkeley in the United States. Two years later he entered the Mexican diplomatic service, and was assigned for a time to New York City. In 1945, he was sent to Paris, where he wrote El Laberinto de la Soledad (“The Labyrinth of Solitude”). The New York Times later described it as “an analysis of modern Mexico and the Mexican personality in which he described his fellow countrymen as instinctive nihilists who hide behind masks of solitude and ceremoniousness.” In 1952, he travelled to India for the first time. That same year, he went to Tokyo, as chargé d’affaires. He next was assigned to Geneva, Switzerland. Octavio Paz returned to Mexico City in 1954, where he wrote his great poem “Piedra de sol” (“Sunstone”) in 1957, and published Libertad bajo palabra (Liberty under Oath), a compilation of his poetry up to that time. He was sent again to Paris in 1959. In 1962 he was named Mexico’s ambassador to India.

In India, Octavio Paz completed several works, including El mono gramático (The Monkey Grammarian) and Ladera este (Eastern Slope). While in India, he met numerous writers of a group known as the Hungry Generation and had a profound influence on them. He met his first wife Elena Garro a writer in Mexico City and was married to her in 1937, they were together until 1959. They had a daughter Helena Laura Paz Garro. In 1965, he 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 service in protest of the Mexican government’s massacre of student demonstrators in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco. After staying in Paris for refuge, he returned to Mexico in 1969. He founded his magazine Plural (1970–1976) with a group of liberal Mexican and Latin American writers. From 1969 to 1970 he was Simón Bolívar Professor at Cambridge University. 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, another cultural magazine. He was editor of that until his death in 1998, when the magazine closed. 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. Once good friends with novelist Carlos Fuentes, Paz became estranged from him in the 1980s in a disagreement over the Sandinistas, whom Paz opposed and Fuentes supported. In 1988, Paz’s magazine Vuelta published criticism of Fuentes by Enrique Krauze, resulting in estrangement between Paz and Fuentes, who had long been friends. A collection of Paz’s poems (written between 1957 and 1987) was published in 1990. In 1990, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Octavio Paz died of cancer on April 19, 1998, in Mexico City.

More Images

  • Octavio Paz enla biblioteca de su csa en 1989. Foto: Fabrizio Leon Diez -

  • 50473c50233779dafd70427710e5be5e -

Born

  • March, 31, 1914
  • Mexico City, Mexico

Died

  • April, 19, 1998
  • Mexico City, Mexico

Cause of Death

  • cancer

Other

  • Cremated

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