Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Paz was born in Mexico City. He was exposed to literature early in his life through his grandfather, a liberal intellectual and novelist. At the encouragement of Pablo Neruda, Paz began writing at an early age, publishing Luna Silvestre ("Wild Moon"), a collection of poems, in 1933. In 1937, Paz visited Spain during that country's civil war, showing his solidarity with the Republicans. Upon returning to Mexico, Paz co-founded a literary journal, Taller ("Workshop") in 1938, and wrote for the magazine until 1941. In 1943 he received a Guggenheim fellowship and began studying at the University of California at Berkeley in the United States, and two years later, he entered the Mexican diplomatic service, working in France until 1962. While there, in 1950, he wrote and published El laberinto de la soledad ("The Labyrinth of Solitude"), a groundbreaking study of Mexican identity and thought.
In 1962, Paz was appointed as Mexico's ambassador to India, and while there, he completed several works, including The Grammarian Monkey and East Slope. His time in government service ended, however, in 1968, when he resigned in protest of the Mexican government's killing of hundreds of students in the Tlatelolco massacre. He returned to Mexico in 1969, and worked as a visiting professor of Spanish American Literature at several universities in the United States. From 1971 to 1976 he edited and published Plural, a magazine he founded that was dedicated to arts and politics. In 1976 he founded Vuelta, a publication with a focus similar to that of Plural, and continued editing that magazine until his death. In 1980 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard University, and in 1982 he won the Neustadt Prize . A collection of his poems (written between 1957 and 1987) was published in 1988. In 1990, he won the Nobel Prize "for [his] impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity" . He died in 1998.
A prolific author and poet, Paz published scores of works during his lifetime, many of which were translated into other languages. His early poetry was influenced by Marxism, surrealism, existentialism, as well as religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. His poem, Piedra del sol ("Sunstone"), written in 1957, was praised as a "magnificent" example of surrealist poetry in the presentation speech of his Nobel Prize. His later poetry often focused on the paintings of international artists like Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Antoni Tapies , Robert Rauschenberg, and Roberto Matta.
As an essayist Paz wrote on topics like Mexican politics and economics, Aztec art , anthropology, and sexuality. His book-length essay, El laberinto de la soledad, delves into the minds of his countrymen, describing them as hidden behind masks of solitude. Due to their history, they are ashamed of their origin and do not know who they are, acting "like persons who are wearing disguises, who are afraid of a stranger's look because it could strip them and leave them stark naked". A key work in understanding Mexican culture, it greatly influenced other Mexican writers, such as Carlos Fuentes.
His works include the poetry collections La estación violenta (1956), Piedra de sol (1957), Alternating Current (tr. 1973), Configurations (tr. 1971), Early Poems: 1935–1955 (tr. 1974), and Collected Poems, 1957–1987 (1987); the volumes of essays The Labyrinth of Solitude (tr. 1963), The Other Mexico (tr. 1972); and El arco y la lira (1956; tr. The Bow and the Lyre, 1973); criticism; and studies of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Marcel Duchamp (both, tr. 1970).
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