Born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1914, Octavio Paz was one of the most significant writers in the Spanish world of the 20th century, winning not only the Neustadt Prize but also the Nobel Prize for Literature in the course of an esteemed career. First published in 1950, in the very middle of the 20th century, and composed of nine essays, 'The Labyrinth of Solitude', or 'El Laberinto de la Soledad' in the original Spanish, is one of Paz's best known works. The essays deal with contemporary Mexico, as Paz saw it in his day to day life, and Mexican customs and are titled: 'The Pachuco and other extremes', 'Mexican Mask', 'The Day of the Dead', 'The Sons of Malinche', 'The Conquest and Colonialism', 'From Independence to the Revolution', 'The Mexican Intelligence', 'The Present Day' and 'The Dialectic of Solitude'.
Considered a great exponent of Surrealist and Existentialist writing, in 'The Labryinth of Solitude' Paz reflects on Mexico's path from Spanish colony to independent, self-governing nation and the effects that its colonial past has had on the modern day state. In the third essay in the collection, Paz discusses what is one of Mexico's most famous cultural events and exports: el Dia de la Muerte, or the Day of the Dead, where Mexicans dress up and remember deceased family members and friends, every year at the end of October/start of November.
Perhaps controversial to some, Paz argues that the Mexican people are a pessimistic people who feel impotent. He develops this argument by linking such a mental attitude to historic events, i.e. colonialism. Alongside this, Paz discusses the idea of the intellectual and his or her relationship to their homeland.
Authored by one of Mexico's greatest cultural commentators, 'The Labyrinth of Solitude' provides the reader with an informative, well-informed and authentic account of Mexico's history and its mid 20th century state-of-being.