Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize Winner

The Nobel Academy in Sweden announced that Mexican writer, poet, diplomat and humanist Octavio Paz won the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 11, 1990.  Paz was born in Mexico City, and followed in his family’s tradition of activist political journalism.  He also served his country as diplomat, but resigned in protest over the Mexican government’s bloody suppression of student unrest.   In his acceptance speech delivered later that year, Paz stated that, “The first basic difference between Latin-American and Anglo-American literature lies in the diversity of their origins. Both begin as projections of Europe. The projection of an island in the case of North America; that of a peninsula in our case. Two regions that are geographically, historically and culturally eccentric. The origins of North America are in England and the Reformation; ours are in Spain, Portugal and the Counter-Reformation. For the case of Spanish America I should briefly mention what distinguishes Spain from other European countries, giving it a particularly original historical identity. Spain is no less eccentric than England but its eccentricity is of a different kind. The eccentricity of the English is insular and is characterized by isolation: an eccentricity that excludes. Hispanic eccentricity is peninsular and consists of the coexistence of different civilizations and different pasts: an inclusive eccentricity. In what would later be Catholic Spain, the Visigoths professed the heresy of Arianism, and we could also speak about the centuries of domination by Arabic civilization, the influence of Jewish thought, the Reconquest, and other characteristic features.”

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