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This report is taken from PN Review 129, Volume 26 Number 1, September - October 1999.

Octavio Paz: The Poet in his Labyrinth Homero Aridjis

(Text read on 5 April 1999 during A Tribute to Octavio Paz at the National Arts Club, New York)

One autumn afternoon in 1963 I met Octavio Paz for the first time, in Mexico City. He was en route from Paris, where he had been in the Mexican foreign service, to India, where he had been appointed ambassador. Strolling among the lofty trees along the Paseo de la Reforma, he said he was going to India because he had no other alternatives for work in Mexico, even though the Asian nation little sparked his interest because he was himself from another exotic country.

These personal revelations surprised me because they told much about him. His first sentence expressed the feeling that he was insufficiently loved in his own country, a sentiment I suspect he carried with him to the end of his days. The second sentence showed that he was far from anticipating the importance his trip to India would have for his life and work. It was there that he would meet Marie-José, his second wife and the love of his life, and would undergo a spiritual conversion that inspired, above all, Viento entero [Wind from All Compass Points], published in 1965, which he described as 'a poem that explores distinct realities simultaneously'. It begins with these lines:

El presente es perpetuo
Los montes son de hueso y son de nieve
Están aquí desde el principio
El viento ...
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