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In search of the present

April 21, 1998|STEVE WASSERMAN | Times Book Editor

With the death on Sunday of Octavio Paz at age 84, world literature lost one of its giants. A major poet of the Spanish language, Paz was born in 1914 in Mexico City. A philosopher, teacher, essayist and publisher, he also served as a diplomat and was Mexico's ambassador to France and India. His study "The Labyrinth of Solitude" introduced countless Americans to the culture of Mexico. His ability to resist the ideological fevers to which so many intellectuals succumbed over the course of our century was as rare as it was admirable.

Paz was the recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the Jerusalem Prize, the Cervantes Prize and the 1990 Nobel Prize for literature. The lecture he delivered in Stockholm when he accepted the Nobel is a compelling introduction to Paz's life and thought. Here is an edited version of that lecture, translated by Anthony Stanton.

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