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The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  11,148 ratings  ·  565 reviews
Octavio Paz has long been acknowledged as Mexico's foremost writer and critic. In this international classic, Paz has written one of the most enduring and powerful works ever created on Mexico and its people, character, and culture. Compared to Ortega y Gasset's The Revolt of the Masses for its trenchant analysis, this collection contains his most famous work, "The Labyrin ...more
Paperback, 398 pages
Published January 12th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1950)
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Daniel There's a chapter in the book called "Máscaras Mexicanas" (could be translated to Mexican Masks as I'n not sure how is it titled on English), in this …moreThere's a chapter in the book called "Máscaras Mexicanas" (could be translated to Mexican Masks as I'n not sure how is it titled on English), in this chapter Paz talks about how we disguise (Mexicans) our real emotions behind everyday "masks" between other things (don't want to ruin if if you haven't read it already).(less)

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Steven Godin
Can solitude really be a national characteristic and a trait of an entire culture or nation? The Nobel Prize winning Mexican poet and critic sets out to maintain that Mexico is a labyrinth of solitude, and that the solitude is inherent to its historical character and a key to understanding its history.

Widely considered one of the most influential texts on Mexican culture, Paz first explains that forms of solitude in a culture originate in a psychological complex of defeat. Starting with Aztecs,
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
yeah, donkey don, i see no way a twenty year old could get much out of this book... it's so rich and deep that some life lived and a healthy dose of critical thinking is certainly required. paz sets out to do nothing less than try and understand the totality of mexican existence and identity. which, understandably, poses quite a problem. as he puts it:

"The whole history of Mexico, from the Conquest to the Revolution, can be regarded as a search for our own selves, which have been deformed or dis
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I usually hate to star-rate nonfictional papers.

If you have read a snippet of "Labyrinth" (& let's face it--you HAVE: or else you know little about the Mexican race) you get the point. The Mexican is a pariah who wears masks to hide inner feelings (sometimes the repressed bursts out...such as in its celebrations), and the country borrows dogmas that do not usually sit well with the Mexicans... ergo disorder, even to this day.

Paz has done a sociological paper right. He gives authenticity to his t
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For a book that was written a half-century ago, this one was amazingly revealing in a number of ways. The history and people of Mexico have always been somewhat outside my comprehension of the world and this book explained much of my confusion. The author's understanding of community and revolution astounded me, and his command of precisely useful compound terms to describe both, left me with a profound respect for the linguistic command of either Paz or his translator Kemp — or both. I wish I h ...more
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
La Chingada es la madre de todos los Mexicanos
The Chingada [translations varies with sentence] is the mother of all Mexicans

I remember I move through Mexico through the years my family lived there after moving from Madrid like a ghost against a compulsory changing Mexico. I traveled the streets where legends are an integral part of both tradition and history just to turn around the corner into a night club. Mexico was a magical land, yet a place of change, or a never moving change. It seemed to
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
There was a common joke I used to hear a lot when I was a teenager, and that was "Call someone from Mexico a Mexican and they will get angry and tell you they are not Mexican." I found it funny at the time because it seemed to work every time. But in reality, the words must have cut far deeper than I imagined. And after reading Octavio Paz's Labyrinth of Solitude, I can understand why.

Paz brilliantly links Mexico's history with the question of "What makes a Mexican a Mexican?" It pervades every
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Required reading for anyone interested in Mexican history and literature. Really for anyone immersing themselves in the fiction and Literature south of our border. More specifically it served as a most excellent warm up to my reading News from the Empire. One might imagine every nation and/or culture having their Paz. And let's say nothing about it's place in post-colonial literature. Some works simply stand as models for what in other contexts might also be done. ...more
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Paz dissects Mexican politics and culture. There were some interesting sections of this book, but he says the same things over and over again, describing Mexico as a palimpsest where Spanish Catholicism overlays itself on Aztec religious theocracy.
There were also some parts of the book I did not care about, such as long discussions of the history of Mexico's many revolutions and a critique of each regime.
Also, Paz states often as generalized facts things that, while he may be trying to present
Nov 11, 2011 marked it as intermittently-reading  ·  review of another edition
Just lean back and let the pliable intelligence flow forth, a Latin sage discoursing on the neural constitution of the southernmost chamber of the North American heart and—in the latter essays—its relationship with the more thickly muscled and extensive northern ventricle vigorously pumping a river of aerated blood down into it.

Pobre México, tan lejos de Dios, tan cerca de los Estados Unidos.
Edgar Ornelas
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is A MUST for any mexican studying out there. Every school has it on their resumé. The book picture perfectly mexican culture, the pros & cons, the lacks and virtues, the ideas that have remained fixed in the mind of every mexican-born, mexican-raised individual: the genetic mapping of a culture.
I loved the book, I felt somewhat identified & the prose is beautiful and precise. I still don't find Octavio Paz to be the best mexican writer (even if he's the only one with Nobel Prize), nor I th
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mexican-lit
Although this book was written in 1962, and some things seem dated, this is the epitome book of the Mexican national identity.
Charlie Webster
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The quintessential book about Mexican thought.
Micheel Granados
Mexicans reading another Mexican to understand what to be a Mexican exactly is.
Patrick Murtha
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
THE book to read if you want to start learning more about Mexico. I have lived in the country for five years and regret that I waited so long to read this. A truly great book.
Emma Roulette
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico is Octavio Paz’s project of describing a National Mexican Identity. Of course I immediately had my doubts. Anthropologists / cultural critics are always saying how projects that attempt to grasp any sort of national character are impossible, misguided. Nations are composed of heterogeneous peoples, all of different cultural traditions, historical backgrounds, economic classes… How could we even attempt to find a generalization that fits all o ...more
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
My infatuation with the Mexican mask culture must somehow mirror that of the Jungian persona; after all, man is amidst, in the words of José Corostiza, a "wilderness of mirrors."

Paz has created an air of holistic realm, giving psychological, sociological, anthropological, and historical insights and adding the zest of poetry, artistic creation, and the art of love to conclude an interpretation and understanding of Mexican culture so vivid, yet so dark.

The Labyrinth of Solitude presents an argum
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is a beautifully wrought attempt to unearth and examine some of the deep differences between Mexican and Anglo-American cultures.
In some ways, it still is a valuable tool for interpreting Mexican public culture. What Paz calls 'the Mexican's willingness to contemplate horror' is still very much on display. Paz' description of Mexican language in The Sons of La Malinche' and his meditation on retributive justice in 'The Day of the Dead' are classics of anthropology, poetry and maybe even so
Jul 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
I like Paz's open-endedness: he can discuss the problems of Mexico (and the world) without dictating an ultimate solution. He knows that our world-view is a choice, a construct, and that we are lost--this is true even 60 years after the first publication of his essay. Progress "has given us more things but not more being". He believes the task, to be able to live comfortably amidst diversity and contradiction, to allow for freedom, yet provide equality and justice, requires a different approach ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Paz writes with such clarity, his beautiful and complete prose shedding light on his homeland to the passing strangers who are the readers of the book. Yet, it is filled with ambiguities, as he leads you through the questions raised and answered, and the very character of the Mexican which is both to be and not to be.
The same themes were present throughout the book, as he brought out similar ideas in different forms and essays. In the first section of the book, the chapters were well laid-out to
Feb 15, 2016 added it
Shelves: essays
Intense, richly written essays on history and society from a deeply perceptive mind. Now, granted, I don't know nearly enough about Mexican history to be able to verify or falsify his statements about various Mexican leaders and ideologies, but they're impressive arguments, and good groundwork for why Mexico remained a semi-colonial state decades after independence. Delving deep into topics ranging from 19th Century debates over positivism, the role of the fiesta in village life, Aztec myth, the ...more
All of us, at some moment, have had a vision of our existence as something unique, untransferable and very precious. This revelation almost always takes place during adolescence. Self-discovery is above all the realization that we are alone: it is the opening of an impalpable transparent wall — that of our consciousness — between the world and ourselves. It is true that we sense our aloneness almost as soon as we are born, but children and adults can transcend their solitude and forget themselve
Leah Rachel von Essen
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
THE LABYRINTH OF SOLITUDE AND OTHER WRITINGS was an interesting read that I picked up in Mexico, a reflection on the identity of the Mexican people by Octavio Paz. It was more philosophy than the poetic prose I'd been led to believe it was, and so was much denser than I expected, digging into history and nationhood and the character and culture of the Mexican people.
I got more out of the 'other writings' included in my volume; I believe because "Labyrinth" is, in my opinion, a bit too poetic fo
Paz wrote an interesting inspection of the Mexican story with the Labyrinth of Solitude. He has crafted a meditation on the contemporary Mexican in two parts. The first part of the book discusses the cultural aspects that contribute to the Mexican as neurotic and the second part discusses the historical and political aspects that contribute to this state. But it is important to note, this is sociological psychology; a mental health evaluation of the Mexican mind. However, Paz does not attempt an ...more
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For my own reasons, again, it took me awhile to finish this one. This includes increasingly lengthy and frequent periods of not reading at all, though. I had to finish it if only because it's really good. It is both poetic and politically far-seeing. It also keeps getting better as it goes along. It pays dividends that way, but by no means do I mean that the original "Labyrinth of Solitude" is "slow" or "hard to get into." It's not, though of the constituent parts of this edition it dates itself ...more
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I finished reading El laberinto de la soledad almost two weeks ago but left the book on my "currently reading" list while I contemplated what I would include in this review. My theory was, if I left my brain alone to churn, it would eventually settle upon some clever-ish thought or two that would wrap Paz's masterpiece up in just a couple of paragraphs. Like a labyrinth, it confounds me.

So I'll settle for sharing the first three thoughts that come to mind:

1. I didn't find terribly useful the par
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it

The Labyrinth of Solitude
This collection of nine essays first published in 1950 had, in my edition, four later essays entitled "The Other Mexico"; "Return to the Labyrinth of Solitude" and "Mexico and the United States", the later being the most interesting . While political stands are bound to be dated, the eloquence, insights and descriptions were quite fascinating. I understood that he wrote for the Mexican public in the post WWII period, and presupposed a knowledge of Mexico and its cult
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, en
Octavio Paz mastered the role of the one of the most trenchant essayist of the 20th century. Leaving his coat of poet in the corner his gives reader incredible journey to the sole of Mexican nation, more precisely to the soul of Mexican and thus man and his solitude.
With his tremendous skills he analysis Mexican culture and Mexican nations. Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is perceived from European view as totally hardly to be taken and understood, however Octavio Paz wrote excellent es
"Myths and fiestas, whether secular or religious, permit man to emerge from his solitude and become one with creation"
Octavio Paz pulls much of this work together with this statement. Once one might squeeze around or past linear concepts of space and time, allowing for a complex (not complicated) system of thought existent in present presence, Paz's thoughts on myth and fiesta sound closer to truth's fragile being. The last paragraph does not end this work as much as it presents a beginning:
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It is really exciting to read Paz because he captures the real meaning of "solitude." for Mexicans, this word is a whole world, an old and new experience of how to see their culture, yet to understand their pre-colombian is a book that teaches you to understand the difference between Meztizo and Criollo...I love reading it. ...more
Amida Lechuga
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that will not tell you a story, but it will help you understand what is behind every mexican. I love it and I am thankful that it exists.

Este es un libro que no te cuenta una historia, pero te ayuda a comprender lo que se encuentra detrás de cada mexicano. Me encantó, y estoy agradecida por su existencia.
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Octavio Paz Lozano was a Mexican writer, poet, and diplomat, and the winner of the 1982 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature ("for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity.") ...more

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