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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

FREE SPIRIT Octavio Paz, One Earth, Four or Five Worlds, translated by Helen R. Lane (Carcanet Press) £12.95;
The Labyrinth of Solitude, translated by Lysander Kemp (Penguin) £3.95 pb.

In a week when BBC television has been regaling us with the opinions of Jean Genet and his admiration for the Baader-Meinhof gang, it is a relief to open Octavio Paz's One Earth, Four or Five Worlds, with its reflections on contemporary history, and find a cogent critique of terrorism, arising from a firm awareness of its operations in Latin America. This awareness is aimed at 'the Latin American left, dogmatic and stubborn-minded, descended,' says Paz, 'not from the Enlightenment but from the theologians of the sixteenth century.'

Last year they burned him in effigy in Mexico City for saying this sort of thing, labelling the effigy 'Friend of Reagan'. Paz is not, of course. Like most literate Mexicans he distrusts America's want of prudence in its handling of Latin America, and he lays the existence of a Soviet satellite in Cuba at America's door. But his distrust is not psychotic suspicion or the over-reaction of Mexican nationalism - the sort of nationalism that even ventured to refuse the speedy help forthcoming from Italy after the recent earthquake: Mexico was self-sufficient!

Paz does not believe that Mexico is self-sufficient and The Labyrinth of Solitude, a welcome addition to King Penguins, was his first major attempt, now thirty-five years old, to sound the depths and also the deficiencies of his native land. He explores those different civilizations and beliefs that exist together there 'in one city or one soul or superimposed like those pre-Cortesian pyramids that ...


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