11 Great Quotes by Octavio Paz

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Octavio Paz (1914 – 1998) was a Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat. He published his first poems in 1931 at the age of 17.   El laberinto de la soledad, perhaps his most renown work, was published in 1950. Paz serves as ambassador to India from 1962 until 1968 when he resigned in protest of the massacre of Tlatelolco. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990.

 

Octavio Paz’s style is abstract, profound, and distinctly creative. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Paz stated that the central purpose of his works is to search for the present, which is itself a search for reality. Here are 11 of Paz’s notable quotes:

 

  1. ON SOCIETY & POETRY

 

“There can be no society without poetry, but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot.”

 

  1. ON ART

 

“Art is an invention of aesthetics, which in turn is an invention of philosophers… What we call art is a game.”

 

  1. ON HISTORY

 

“History has the cruel reality of a nightmare, and the grandeur of man consists in his making beautiful and lasting works out of the real substance of that nightmare. Or, to put it another way, it consists in transforming the nightmare into vision; in freeing ourselves from the shapeless horror of reality–if only for an instant–by means of creation.”

 

  1. ON BEING AWARE OF OUR HISTORY

 

“To become aware of our history is to become aware of our singularity…The past reappears because it is a hidden present.”

 

  1. ON PROGRESS

 

“Progress has peopled history with the marvels and monsters of technology but it has depopulated the life of man. It has given us more things but not more being.”

 

  1. ON SOLITUDE

 

“Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.”

 

  1. ON LOVE

 

“To love is to undress our names.”

 

  1. ON THE SINGULARITY OF TEXTS

 

“Every text is unique and, at the same time, it is the translation of another text. No text is entirely original because language itself, in its essence, is already a translation…all texts are original because every translation is distinctive. Every translation, up to a certain point, is an invention and as such it constitutes a unique text.”

 

  1. ON MODERNITY

 

“I discovered that modernity is not outside but within us. It is today and the most ancient antiquity; it is tomorrow and the beginning of the world; it is a thousand years old and yet newborn. It speaks in Nahuatl, draws Chinese ideograms from the 9th century, and appears on the television screen… We pursue modernity in her incessant metamorphoses yet we never manage to trap her…We embrace her and she disappears immediately: it was just a little air…We are left empty-handed. Then the doors of perception open slightly and the other time appears, the real one we were searching for without knowing it: the present, the presence.”

 

  1. ON WRITERS AND READERS

 

“I don’t believe that there are dangerous writers: the danger of certain books is not in the books themselves but in the passions of their readers.”

 

  1. ON THE WORLD AS A CONVERSATION

 

“I thought that the world was a vast system of signs, a conversation between giant beings. My actions, the cricket’s saw, the star’s blink, were nothing but pauses and syllables, scattered phrases from that dialogue. What word could it be, of which I was only a syllable? Who speaks the word? To whom is it spoken?”