Of Arms and the Essayist

  • Ilan Stavans


Nature, said Ralph Waldo Emerson in the prologue to Representative Men, seems to exist for the excellent. The world is upheld by the veracity of extraordinary individuals who make the earth wholesome. Octavio Paz, Mexico’s foremost essayist and poet, appears to hold this stature in his native country and in the vast Hispanic world: a renaissance hommes de lettres, an intellectual ambassador who personifies Latin America’s wholehearted embrace of European culture—in sum, a cultural demigod. But much like one of his idols, T. S. Eliot, who commanded an overwhelming influence over English and American literary aesthetics during the 1940s and 1950s and was later condemned for his reactionary politics, Paz, once greeted with unmixed applause, now faces an increasingly critical readership.


Political Writing Mexican Culture Reactionary Politics Inferiority Complex Modern Poetry 
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© Ilan Stavans 1996

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  • Ilan Stavans

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