Octavio Paz, the intellectual and poet born 108 years ago

I was born on March 31, 1914, the year in which the first great war broke out and, in Mexico, the year of the North American occupation of Veracruz, the fall of Huerta and the great division of the triumphant revolutionaries”, said Octavio himself Peace in “The poet in his land“, the conversations with Braulio Peralta. And just today, the Mexican poet and essayist who in 1990 was decorated with the Nobel Prize for Literatureis celebrated on the 108th anniversary of his birth with a series of activities at the Colegio de San Ildefonso, where his ashes will be kept together with those of his wife, Marie José Tramini.

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Octavio Paz, the poet, essayist, writer and diplomatauthor of almost thirty books of poems and more than 30 books of essays, which have been translated into 32 languages, said in an interview with the American writer and journalist Rita Guibert, he said:

“I come from a typical Mexican family. On my father’s side, my family is very old and originally from the state of Jalisco. A mestizo family. My paternal grandfather was Mexican. My maternal grandparents were Andalusian and my mother was born in Mexico. So my family is, on the one hand, European and on the other, indigenous”.

peace, winner Cervantes Prize in 1981was the grandson of Irineo Paz, novelist and army soldier, and son of Octavio Paz Solórzano, a lawyer who supported the cause of Emiliano Zapata, entered the National Preparatory School, which then had its headquarters in the San Ildefonso building, in 1930 , at the age of 16, a fact that, according to what he wrote years later, marked his life.

He then studied at the Faculties of Law and Philosophy and Letters of the National Autonomous University of Mexicowhere he took classes with the writer Carlos Pellicer, who linked him with poets such as Jorge Cuesta, Xavier Villaurrutia, Salvador Novo and José Gorostiza.

At age 17, Paz published his first poems in the magazine “Barandal” (1931). Later, he directed the magazines “Workshop” (1939) and “Prodigal Son” (1943).

In June 1937 he married the writer Elena Garro, with whom he had a daughter, Helena; to then travel to Spain and participate in the Congress of Antifascist Writers, where he met Rafael Alberti, Nicolás Guillén, Pablo Neruda and Ernest Hemingway, contacts that strongly influenced his poetics.

In 1943 he won the Guggenheim scholarship, which gave him the opportunity to spend a year in the United States and studied at the University of California at Berkeley, United States; then, in 1945, he entered the Mexican Foreign Service and was sent to Paris, followed by stays in India, where he met Marie José Tramini, in 1962, and Japan.

But it was during this period in Paris that Octavio Paz moved away from Marxism and came into contact with surrealist poets and other European and Hispano-American intellectuals.

As an intellectual, he was at the center of the controversy, since as a young man he communed with liberalism and Marxism, doctrines that he would criticize later. His denunciation of human rights violations in socialist countries caused severe questioning by the Latin American left.

He lectured at various American and European universities, gave lectures and founded the magazines “Plural” and “Vuelta” in the seventies.

He was also a great translator of poets such as Gérard de Nerval, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pierre Reverdy, Stéphane Mallarmé, Henri Michaux, Paul Éluard, Fernando Pessoa, Georges Schehadé, John Donne, Ezra Pound, EE Cummings, William Carlos Williams, Czeslaw Milosz, Li Po, Tu Fu, Li Ch’ingchao, Matsuo Basho, and Kalidasa and Chuang-tse, among many others.

Among his most outstanding books is his profound reflection on poetic creation in “El arco y la lira”, from 1959; “The Labyrinth of Solitude” (1959) and “Postdata” (1970), where he analyzes the Mexican identity; and of course his work “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz or the traps of faith” (1982) which is a complete study on the work and the life of the seventeenth-century Mexican poet.

Octavio Paz, who was one of the great intellectuals of the 20th centurydied on April 19, 1998 at the Casa de Alvarado, located at Francisco Sosa No. 383, in Coyoacán, a building that today houses the Fonoteca Nacional.

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Octavio Paz, the intellectual and poet born 108 years ago