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Octavio Paz: A Meditation Hardcover – January 1, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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 fill—just barely—90 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

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Octavio Paz: Nobel Prize winner, author of "The Labyrinth of Solitude" and "Sor Juana, or, 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 Mexicoas difficult quest to come to terms with its own history. 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 InA(c)s 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 Stavansas own oeuvre that will stimulate discerning readers.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 89 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press (January 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816520909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816520909
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,924,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Scott M. Eaton on January 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
One of the saving graces of Stavans' profile-reflection of Paz is it's complete absence of a stultifying academic tone. This, unfortunately, is not enough to merit Stavans' book. In the first few pages he writes of Paz's poetic output, "I confess to having never much cared for his poetry...His poetry is too lose, too mystical for my taste." Stavans characterizes Paz's poetic oeuvre as "too close to Surrealism". These comments by Stavans displays a remarkably superficial reading of Paz's poems, to such a significant degree as to almost entirely discredit any of his observations on Paz's critical writings, which are in his words, "a better metronome for our times". Anyone who has given Paz's poems more in-depth attention than Stavans, will quickly come to the realization that in Paz's poems there is an audible critical voice, & in his prose there is often poetic passages.
In fact, in some works the two converge until they are indistinguishable, as in the case of "The Monkey Grammarian", which some critics consider his most unusual prose work, but his English translator, Eliot Weinberger considered an essentially poetic work. The only books of essays given significant attention to in Stavans' work are "The Labyrinth of Solitude" & "Sor Juana, or, the Traps of Faith", both of which he considered to be Paz's masterpieces. All other collections of essays are only briefly mentioned throughout.
Stavans' book also suffers from glaring inconsistencies, as in his passages on Paz's magazine, "Vuelta".
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Stavans has been compared to Mr. Octavio Paz. And for good reason: this is a short book, but it's powerful. It doesn't do what trashy academic books do all the time: the say absolutely nothing. Dr. Stavans offers a strong, critical portrait of the Nobel Prize winner, and some people in the establishment won't like that. He has the courage to say what others won't!
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