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This article is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

Octavio Paz: The Dream Set Free Michael Schmidt

The Mexican poet Octavio Paz is seventy-five this year. He's not grizzled - age hasn't withered him. There's a boyish quality in the way he moves and laughs, often at himself. He seems to contain all his ages, all the phases of his politics and the stages of his evolution into one of the great critics of our time - not simply a literary critic but a spiritual and political visionary too. He's a poet-visionary of a rare kind: he tries to witness to what is; he refuses to lay out his experience on the Procrustean bed of a solving ideology, a seductive utopian dream. When he gets talking, you find in him an almost tangible residue of the young student striding around the streets of Mexico City at night arguing politics, discussing Dostoyevsky with his friends, joining the student strike in 1929. Here too is the young idealist who went to Yucatan in his early twenties to help found a school for the children of the sisal workers; and then went to Spain during the Civil War and stayed long enough to see some of the action. You recognize in the septuagenarian the young disciple of the French surrealist André Breton; and he retains the charismatic lustre of controversial diplomat and teacher. His youthfulness and his unpredictable freedom of spirit make him important in Latin America. His enemies and his friends watch him warily. What will he do next? He has no disciples, no 'party' - no one ...

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