EAGLE OR SUN? by Octavio Paz


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Near the beginning of this sequence of prose poems, while Paz entertains a host of mythical demons that spring from his head as he writes, he says, ""I have spent the second part of my life breaking the stones, drilling the walls, smashing the doors, removing the obstacles I placed between myself and the light in the first part of my life."" Demons are not all that emerge from the moil; by the end of the third section of the book, personae of both pre-Colombian and modern Mexico--Paz's native land and the mythopoeic center of the book--have formed on the scene and been surrounded and enriched by a score of recurring natural images. The book, in fact, is a diary of images: fig trees, masquerading stones, the eagle, the sun, even a wave taken home from the sea and imprisoned as a protean lover, appear, reappear, and are refinished in shifting historical contexts. But most of all, the book is a chronicle of the author's struggle in the years 1949-50 to come to terms with the conflicting demands of a common language and of the ahistorical imagination of the poet. While the result is often a diction of apocalypse we've learned to shrug off, Paz's vigilant hermeticism and abiding linguistic intensity instruct us, as they've instructed the Latin Americans who've loved this book for twenty-five years.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1976
Publisher: New Directions