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The Labyrinth of Solitude (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

First published in 1950, The Labyrinth of Solitude addresses issues that are both seemingly eternal and resoundingly contemporary: the nature of political power in post-conquest Mexico, the relation of Native Americans to Europeans, the ubiquity of official corruption. Noting these matters earned Paz no small amount of trouble from the Mexican leadership, but it also brought him renown as a social critic. Paz, who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, later voiced his disillusionment with all political systems--as the Mexican proverb has it, "all revolutions degenerate into governments"--but his call for democracy in this book has lately been reverberating throughout Mexico, making it timely once again. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Originally issued in 1962, The Labyrinth of Solitude (Grove Weidenfeld. (ISBN 0-8021-5042-X. pap. $10.95; reprint) "contains nine beautifully written, deeply felt essays . . . whose concern is the Mexican's solitariness and quest for identity" ( LJ 4/15/62). The expanded volume contains additional essays written in the spirit of Labyrinth and other important works.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141188472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141188478
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,315,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By ehecatl23@yahoo.com on March 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
No other book has been able to accurately describe the Mexican psyche as Paz has done in this book. His eloquent prose style captivates the Mexican spirit in all its grace and in all its sadness. He brings all of Mexico's conflicts and taboos together and strips off all its masks to reveal the Mexican. I found his style to be poetic, eloquent, and majestic. Never had I read a book as powerfull and truthfull as Paz's. It is no wonder Paz was honored to receive the Nobel prize for this work. Any individual willing to read this book will finish it understanding Mexican culture and history better.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Scott Henson on August 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Paz's 'Labyrinth of Solitude' describes a Mexico of days gone by. 21st-century Mexico is dramatically more urban and modern, on the whole, than when Paz wrote this 50+ years ago.

Published in 1950, this was a book of its time. The Grove Press English translation is first rate; it reads beautifully.

Paz despised communism but was unimpressed with American materialism and narcissism, which in any event he thought inapplicable en masse to the Mexican character (as he piercingly described it) that drew so heavily on indigenous roots. He thought Mexico could find a third way, and he chose to start his search for it by heeding the millenia-old Socratic charge: know thyself. The result was a book one critic called an insult to every Mexican mother, though in truth it's nothing of the sort. His polemic made him no friends in the short term, however, even as it became an instant classic and catapulted him among the pinnacle stars of 20th century Latin American cultural critics.

Great to read while traveling, but good to keep in mind it's dated 5 decades. He's not describing the Mexican world a decade after NAFTA! His collected poems are worth the cost of admission, too.
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59 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Enrique Torres VINE VOICE on June 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in the early 70's and enjoyed it immensely. Being od Mexican descent it gave me insight into who I am and why. I have read this book again recently, upon Paz's death, and found it still as enlightening. The style of writng is beautiful, poetic , and full of symbolism and metaphors. While working in education I highly recommended it to my collegues to better understand the Mexican psyche. Anyone who works in the public sector or deals with Mexicans on either side of the border should read this book. It will help you understand the mind of the Mexican and how it works. One of my all time favorite books that should be enjoyed by all people interested in human behavior.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chris Stolz on May 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Like all great books, Paz' exploration of the Mexican soul begins with concrete historical and cultural detail and exfoliates into something complex, profound and ultimately moving.

Paz sets his book at the junction where historical experience, ritual, myth, the Mexican sense of interior solitude, Mexico's European, Maya and Aztec roots, and its incredible legacy of art and writing intersect. The book-- in gleaming prose-- describes Mexico from both personal and historical points of view. His thesis is that, despite much of its horrific historical baggage and the mess that its twentieth-century governments made of it, Mexican culture understands that North American materialism and individualism are "nightmares reflected in the torture chambers of reason." Paz' eye, of course, is critical-- Mexico is here as scrutinised as its northern neighbour-- but his book shows that underneath what often appears to observers as a macho and weirdly tacky culture there is a powerful and enduring old wisdom.

This is a remarkable book-- a great intro to Mexican culture for those who've read the historical basics.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Garibay Torres on February 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Some say that when this masterpiece appeared in Mexico it was perceived as a mexican offending his own country, many censured Paz ideas:the birth of criticism and freedom of speech was taking place in Mexico.Since those years (the 50's), this radiography hasn't change a lot and this book has become a truly must read book. Its like a pre guide tour of one of the most mysterious countries in the world.Paz wrote about mexicans masks and inner faces. His sensual poetic prose dances with intelligence and beauty.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Burns on July 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
I wonderful book that examines the political and human level of Mexico and its deep rooted history. Most people think of chaos in reference to this great country, I suggest you read this beautiful book to understand the complex structure of Mexico.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jessie L. on August 12, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The writing in this book is a bit thick and meandering, but it does give some interesting insight into a culture many Americans have a hard time understanding at a time when we need to understand the most. If you can handle the frequent revisiting of the same topics throughout the essays, you will learn quite a bit.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Deron Dilger on November 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
I think previous reviewers Scott Henson (5 stars) and Jessica L. Krudwig (3 stars) pretty much nailed it with their reviews (though for the star count, I'm going with Jessica, giving 3 stars).

My summation:

1) If you want to understand why Mexico or Mexicans do what they do (and don't do what they don't do), this book is part of the standard-issue reading list. I wouldn't consider it anywhere near the be-all-end-all, but with how often it is referenced, it needs to be part of the mix.

2) Mexico, America, and the rest of the world have changed a lot since this book was written. It seems to me that some of it is dated. Yet, in all fairness, some of it seems proven true (e.g. much of the criticism of USA capitalism and commercialism running amok &/or being soulless). I don't think cultures change overnight, or even in only one or two generations, but the worldview gazed through for the writing of this book isn't as tenable, now days.

3) The writing is what one would expect from a poet. Overstuffed with allusions and flowery prose, the core message/meaning of the author can get lost in the verbiage, at times. That shouldn't prevent you from reading it, and in itself it is something of an example of "Mexican thinking/speaking." I mention it to warn you that there are many words to digest to get down to a succinct chunk of useful information/opinion.

4) I would suggest reading some Mexican history before reading this book. He covers many centuries when critiquing El Mexicano and if you have a better understanding of a more "objective" history of Mexico it is easier to grasp the opinions and conclusions he builds on top of Mexico's historical events.
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