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Labyrinth Of Solitude

The Labyrinth of Solitude (Spanish: El laberinto de la soledad) is a 1950 book-length essay by the Mexican poet Octavio Paz. One of his most famous works, it consists of nine parts: "The Pachuco and other extremes", "Mexican Masks", "The Day of the Dead", "The Sons of La Malinche", "The Conquest and Colonialism", "From Independence to the Revolution", "The Mexican Intelligence", "The Present Day" and "The Dialectic of Solitude". After 1975 some editions included the three-part essay "Posdata" (this essay, which translates to "Postscript," was published previously as a standalone book in 1970, and translated for an English edition in 1972 under the title The Other Mexico: Critique of the Pyramid), which discusses the massacre of hundreds of Mexican students in 1968. (Paz abandoned his position as ambassador in India in reaction to this event.) The essays are predominantly concerned with the theme of Mexican identity and demonstrate how, at the end of the existential labyrinth, there is a profound feeling of solitude.[1] As Paz argues:

Labyrinth of Solitude


Paz observes that solitude is responsible for the Mexican's perspective on death, fiesta, and identity. Death is celebrated but at the same time repelled because of the uncertainty behind it. As for the fiestas, they express a sense of communality, crucially emphasizing the idea of not being alone and in doing so, help to bring out the true Mexican that is usually hidden behind a mask of self-denial. This represents the way in which the Mexicans have inherited two distinct cultures, the Spanish and the Indigenous, but by denying one part of their identity, they become stuck in a world of solitude.

The main theme of the essays of this book is closely associated with the matters of Mexican Identity and it is aimed at demonstrating how deep the feeling of solitude for Mexicans in this world is. The issues of bi-culturalism and multiculturalism are the matters which define the Mexican identity, as their culture was based on the perception of the world in accordance with the attitude of the other countries towards Mexico, and on the cultural traditions of Indians and Europeans. The matter of fact is that, the issues of multiculturalism have shaped the traditional representation of the world by Mexicans, and such sub-culture as Pachucos, which will be described in the research, symbolizes the Mexico itself during the first century of its independence: independent, lonesome and apathetic. Originally, in the light of this notion Paz emphasizes that the national identity of Mexicans is closely associated with the perspectives of death, fiesta and identity in general. Mesoamerica was made up of a complex of autonomous peoples, nations, and cultures, each with its own differing traditions and cultural heritages mixed and at last became one.

The main issues of the book are closely related with the matters of traditional views on the surrounding world, and the integral parts of human life as death, leisure and the nature. As for the matters of fiestas, it should be emphasized that they differ from the fiestas in Spain and express the sense of communality. If Spanish fiesta is aimed at relaxing before continuing the working day, Mexicans need to know that they are not alone in the desert, or some lonesome town in the desert. They emphasize the idea of not being alone and in helps Mexicans to realize their self-being. This representation of fiesta clearly defines the process of cultural inheritance of Spanish culture and the creation of indigenous legacy by denying an essential part of their own identity and becoming stuck in a world of solitude. (Paz, 129)

The author emphasizes the fact the historical development of this state is rather interesting. Around 9,000 years ago, ancient Amerindians managed to domesticate corn, which caused the initiation of an agricultural revolution. This revolution, in its turn, lead to the formation of the following civilizations. These civilizations were even more culturally developed then the European peoples. Their writing, monumental architecture, astronomical studies, mathematics, and militaries surprise the contemporary historians with the high levels of their development. Nevertheless, these civilizations were destroyed with the arrival of the Spaniards in 1519. The following periods of Mexican history are closely linked with Spanish colonization, War with the USA after receiving the formal independence from Spain, and then brief ruling of France after its invasion to Mexico in 1861. The comparatively isolated geographical location (isolated from the other Spanish speaking countries) shaped the deep feeling of solitude. (Paz, 49)

However, Paz also admits that Mexico lacks a sense of community, and life in the country is highly combative. This results in a focus on self-preservation, instead of charity and compassion. This combative lifestyle ceases only during the fiesta, when Mexicans can let down their guard and escape their social and cultural solitude. Paz provides historical background on the creation of Mexico, such as the combination of Spanish and Aztec culture, to explain this lack of community ties.

Mexican Churches, by Eliot Porter and Ellen Auerbach. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 20 pp. introductory material; 80 pp. of full-color plates. $24.95. In ``The Labyrinth of Solitude,'' Octavio Paz recalls his discovery of ``the other man'' during a visit to the front in the Spanish Civil War. ``No doubt the nearness of death and the brotherhood of men-at-arms, at whatever time and in whatever country, always produce an atmosphere favorable ... to all that rises above the human condition and breaks the circle of solitude that surrounds each one of us.'' 041b061a72


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