This well-translated collection of 16 essays on subjects ranging from Baude-laire and Breton to Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams shows everywhere the intuitive--and in some cases willful--intelligence of Paz. Known for political convictions that, while embracing goals of social improvement and anti-imperialism, also created controversy by rejecting Stalinism and totalitarianism, Paz here focuses in several essays on the complicity of the Latin American Left in the repressions of Soviet Russia: ""It is impossible to be unmoved by the Lenin of The State and Revolution. Equally, it is impossible to forget that he was the founder of the Cheka and the man who unleashed terror against the Mensheviks and Revolutionary Socialists, his comrades in arms. . . I will add that our opinions on this subject have not been mere errors or flaws in . . .judgment. They have been a sin in the old religious sense of that word: something that affects the whole being."" Many of the essays are focused on aesthetic concerns--poetry's ""irruption"" into cinema in Bunuel's films; Dostoevski's ""at once commonplace and prodigious"" characters. Paz always places his subjects firmly within their cultural context. He notes that Williams--unlike Eliot--chose to live in an American small town; and that Frost's southern Vermont setting formed a perfect antithesis to the Valencia of Antonio Machado: ""Sages for the people; the American in his cabin, the Spaniard in his provincial cafe. . . Yes, the Anglo Saxon has the cleaner shirt and there are more trees in his view. But the other's smile was finer and sadder. There's a great deal of snow in this fellow's poems, but there's dust, antiquity, history in the other's."" Thoughtful, sometimes provocative reading.