Octavio Paz

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Octavio Paz
Paz was born March 31, 1914, in Mexico City, Mexico; died April 19, 1998, Mexico City, Mexico. Once considered himself a Marxist, but today Communists consider him a conservative because he said he rejected the "simplistic and simplifying ideologies of the left." He also angered the far right in his homeland, leaving him ostracized by both extremes.

Octavio Paz was a poet, yet he was not a gentle man. His poetry and essays have been described as phosphorescent, political, passionate, complicated, moral, and hauntingly lonely. His writing is surreal, sensuous, and intense, like a bright sun burning into the heart and soul of Mexico itself. Paz was born in 1914 in Mexico City. His father was a lawyer whose ancestors were Mexican and Indian; his mother's parents were immigrants from Andalusia, Spain. Paz's well-off family lost all its money in the Mexican Civil War, and Paz grew up poor in Mixcoac, a village outside of Mexico City. Paz attended Catholic schools, but questioned their teachings. He enrolled at the National University of Mexico, but left without getting a degree. Instead, he began writing---prolifically. In 1933, he published his first book of poetry, Luna Silvestre ("Forest Moon"). He first came to the United States in 1944 on a Guggenheim fellowship, but soon ran out of money. In 1945 he joined the Mexican diplomatic corps. During the next 23 years, he was posted to France, Switzerland, the United States, Japan, and India. All this time he was writing. In 1952 his essay, The Labyrinth of Solitude, became the platform for great philosophical change in Mexico; it was published in English in 1957. The essay penetrated what Paz called the "underneath" of Mexico: "The Mexican seems to me to be a person who shuts himself away to protect himself; his face is a mask and {he} is always remote," he wrote in his attempt to illuminate the "indecipherable anguish of a race born in violence and obsessed with the past."

Paz was not...
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