|Famous as||Writer, Poet, Diplomat and Noble Prize Laureate|
|Born on||31 March 1914|
|Born in||Mexico City, Mexico|
|Died on||19 April 1998|
|Works & Achievements||Winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature, Wrote famous works like "Piedra de sol" ("Sunstone"), Libertad bajo palabra (Liberty under Oath), El Laberinto de la Soledad ("The Labyrinth of Solitude").|
Octavio Paz Childhood & Early Life
Octavio Paz was born on March 31, 1914 in Mexico City, Mexico. His parents were Octavio Paz Solórzano and Josefina Lozano. His father was an active supporter of the Revolution against the Díaz regime. He grew up in the village of Mixcoac, which is now the part of Mexico City. He was raised by his mother, Josefina, his aunt Amalia Paz, and his paternal grandfather Ireneo Paz. His grandfather Ireneo Paz was a liberal intellectual, novelist, publisher and former supporter of President Porfirio Díaz. Paz attended a private school, Colegio Williams. His family was a public supporter of Emiliano Zapata. As such, after the assassination of Zapata, his family was forced to exile to United States. His grandfather’s library of classic Mexican and European Literature introduced Paz to literature. Spanish writers, Gerardo Diego, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and Antonio Machado had a great influence on his early writings. In 1931, Paz published his first poems, including “Cabellera”. The following year, Paz along with few friends founded his first literary review, “Barandal”. In 1933, at the age of nineteen, he published a collection of poems, “Luna Silvestre” (Wild Moon). In 1935, he abandoned his law studies and headed towards Yucatán to work at a school in Mérida. This school was set for the sons of peasants and workers. It was here, Paz started writing his ambitious poems, “Entre la piedra y la flor” (Between the Stone and the Flower). This poem described the situation of the Mexican peasant under the greedy landlords.
In the year 1937, Paz was invited to the Second International Writers Congress. He was called for the Defense of Culture in Spain during the country's civil war. When he returned in 1938, Paz co-founded a literary journal, ‘Taller’ (Workshop). The same year, he met and married Elena Garro. The couple had a daughter, Helena. Paz continued to write for ‘Taller’ till 1941. In 1943, he received a Guggenheim fellowship and began studying at the University of California at Berkeley in the United States. Two years later, Paz joined the Mexican diplomatic service and worked in New York for some time. He was sent to Paris in 1945, where he wrote “El Laberinto de la Soledad” (The Labyrinth of Solitude), which became the groundbreaking study of Mexican identity and thought. He traveled India in 1952 and the same year went to Tokyo as chargé d'affairs. Later, Paz moved to Geneva, in Switzerland. He returned to Mexico in 1954. In 1957, he wrote his great poem “Piedra de sol” (Sunstone) and “Libertad bajo palabra” (Liberty under Oath). In 1959, he was sent again to Paris and in 1962 became the Mexico’s ambassador to India.
During his stay in India, Paz wrote many works, including “El mono gramático” (The Monkey Grammarian) and “Ladera este” (Eastern Slope). In India, he came in contact with a group of writers called the Hungry Generation. Following his protest against Mexican Government’s massacre of student demonstrators in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, he resigned from diplomatic corps in October 1968. After staying in Paris for a while, he returned to Mexico in 1969. The next year, Paz founded the magazine ‘Plural’ (1970–1976) with the help of a group of liberal Mexican and Latin American writers. Between time periods 1970-74, he lectured at Harvard University. Based on his lectures at the university, he wrote his book, “Los hijos del limo” (Children of the Mire). Mexican government closed his magazine ‘Plural’ in 1975, but he very soon established ‘Vuelta’, a publication with the same objective that of ‘Plural’. In 1977, Paz received the Jerusalem Prize for literature on the theme of individual freedom. In 1980, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard, and was given the Neustadt Prize in 1982. A collection of his poems was published in 1990. The same year he received the Nobel Prize for literature.
Paz was a prolific writer whose works were translated in many languages of the world. His poems were translated in English by Samuel Beckett, Charles Tomlinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Muriel Rukeyser and Mark Strand. His earlier poems were influenced by Marxism, surrealism, and existentialism and also by the religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Later, his poems were focused on love and eroticism. Paz also wrote poems on modern paintings, dedicating poems to the works of Balthus, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Antoni Tapies, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roberto Matta. He had also written essays on topics like Mexican politics and economics, Aztec art, anthropology, and sexuality. In 1956, Paz wrote a play, “La hija de Rappaccini”. This play was adopted from a 1844 short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He combined this story with the sources from an Indian poet Vishakadatta with influences from Japanese Noh theatre, Spanish autos sacramentales and the poetry of William Butler Yeats. In 1972, André Pieyre de Mandiargues translated this play into French as “La fille de Rappaccini”. This play was turned into an opera by Mexican composer Daniel Catán in 1992. Some of his works translated into English were essays, which included, 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.) It also includes critical studies and biographies such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Marcel Duchamp (both, tr. 1970). His other notable works include poetry collections, “La Estación Violenta”, (1956) and “Piedra de Sol” (1957). The two English translation of his poems are Early Poems: 1935-1955 (tr. 1974), and Collected Poems, 1957-1987 (1987).
In 1938, Paz met and married Elena Garro. The couple had a daughter, Helena. However, they divorced in 1959. For a while he dated, the Italian painter Bona Tibertelli de Pisis, but he broke up with Bona in 1963 and married a French woman, Marie-José Tramini.
Octovio Paz died of cancer in 1998.
Octavio Paz Timeline:
1914: Octavio Paz was born in Mexico City, Mexico.
1931: Published his first poems, including "Cabellera".
1933: Published a collection of poems, Luna Silvestre ("Wild Moon").
1935: Abandoned his law studies and headed towards Yucatán to work at a school in Mérida.
1937: Was invited to the Second International Writers Congress.
1938: Co-founded a literary journal, Taller ("Workshop"), married Elena Garro.
1943: Received a Guggenheim fellowship and began studying at the University of California at Berkeley in the United States.
1945: Joined the Mexican diplomatic service, was sent to Paris.
1952: Traveled to India and Tokyo.
1957: Wrote his great poem "Piedra de sol" ("Sunstone") and Libertad bajo palabra (Liberty under Oath).
1959: Was sent again to Paris.
1962: Became the Mexico’s ambassador to India.
1969: Returned to Mexico.
1970: Founded the magazine Plural.
1970-74: Lectured at Harvard University.
1977: Received the Jerusalem Prize for literature on the theme of individual freedom.
1980: Was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard.
1982: Was given the Neustadt Prize.
1990: Received the Nobel Prize for literature.
1998: Died of cancer.