Octavio Paz is one of the most important Mexican writers, a representative of the post avant-garde movement as well as one of the most prolific authors, as his work covers many genres including poetry, essays and translations of the work of others.
Octavio Paz was born in 1914 in Mexico City and started his education in the United States, after his parents moved there during his childhood. However it was in Mexico that he completed his educations after enrolling in Colegio Francés-Morelos.
At the age of 19 he had already started to build up a reputation for himself as one of the most promising poets of Mexico and during the 1920s and 1930s, Octavio discovered several European poets including Antonio Machado, Gerardo Diego and Juan Ramón Jiménez.
In 1937 Octavio Paz finished his studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and then moved to Yucatán for work. There he came into contact with the problems of the country people and their struggle with an altogether capitalist society, and it was this that inspired him to write the poem Entre la piedra y la flor (1941). Despite the social theme of this poem, Paz hoped to deal in depth with the reality of being human, entrenched in the fundamental problems between the character and nature, through the use of symbolic language.
Octavio Paz travelled around Spain during the civil war, supporting the republican side, and the events of the war had a large influence on his later work. Subsequently he gave a distressing vision of the conditions of life in Spain and his home country of Mexico. Following this he attended the University of Berkeley and at this point began his diplomatic career which took him to several countries including the USA, France and India.
In 1950, he published his most important essay regarding the idea of being Mexican “El Laberinto de la Soledad”. In this, he considered all of the different attitudes of its people in order to understand their motivations and being. He then returned to the roots of his town and looked for the hidden cultural links of Mexico.
In 1968, and whilst exercising his diplomatic role in India, Octavio Paz received the devastating news of what was going on within his country, in that a paramilitary group and the Mexican army had caused the killing of Tlatelolco. It was at this moment that Octavio Paz decided to leave his job as a diplomat as sign of protest.
In 1990 he received the Nobel Prize for literature.