"Amherst Scholar Ilan Stavans has been called 'the czar of Latino culture in the United States,' and this elegantly slender, deftly wrought tribute to the Mexican literary titan Octavio Paz more than amply proves why he wears the title." San Francisco Chronicle"A meditation on an intellectual by an intellectual . . . Elegant, heartfelt and enormously perceptive, Stavans' meditation may be a slim volume, an essay stretched to filljust barely90 pages, but it is essential reading for anyone who would attempt to comprehend the 20th century Mexican literary scene and the legacy of its greatest light." Hyde Park Review of Books"While Stavans's 'meditation' will perhaps resonate most richly with admirers of the late Paz, the book is an illuminating text on more general issues as well, including the evolution of Mexican literature in the 1900s, the cultural role of literary journals, and the purpose of intellectualism in modern society." Rain Taxi
From the Inside Flap
Octavio Paz: Nobel Prize winner, author of The Labyrinth of Solitude
and The Traps of Faith,
precursor and pathfinder, a guiding light of the Mexican intelligentsia in the twentieth century.
In this small, memorable meditation on Octavio Paz as a thinker and man of action, Ilan Stavans-described by the Washington Post as "one of our foremost cultural critics" and by the New York Times as "the czar of Latino culture in the United States"-ponders Paz's intellectual courage against the ideological tapestry of his epoch and shows us what lessons can be learned from him. He does so by exploring such timeless issues as the crossroads where literature and politics meet, the place of criticism in society, and Mexico's difficult quest to come to terms with its own history.
"Inflexibility and exasperation are poisons to the mind," Stavans has observed. "A cultural critic and intellectual role model, to endure, ought to give signs of life." One of Stavans's lifelong heroes is Edmund Wilson, the brilliant thinker whose body of work ranges from Marcel Proust and James Joyce to the American Civil War, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Iroquois Indians. Another acknowledged role model is Octavio Paz, "the quintessential surveyor, a Dante's Virgil, a Renaissance man." Stavans reflects on Paz's personal struggle with Marxism and surrealism, his reflections on pachucos, his analysis of love and eroticism, his study of the life and legacy of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and his influence as a magazine editor. But this extraordinary rumination is not only a thought-provoking appraisal of Paz; it is also a feast for the myriad admirers of Stavans, himself a spirited, mordant essayist who is not afraid of controversy.
This explains why Richard Rodriguez has portrayed Stavans as "the rarest of North American writers-he sees the Americas whole," and then added, "Not since Octavio Paz has Mexico given us an intellectual so able to violate borders with learning and grace." Octavio Paz: A Meditation is a fitting addition to Stavans's own oeuvre that will stimulate discerning readers.