THE DOUBLE FLAME by Octavio Paz

THE DOUBLE FLAME

Essays on Love and Eroticism
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The Nobel laureate takes some impressive turns through literary and social history as he pleads for a new eroticism and a new humanity. In the authoritative but gentle voice of a mature literary figure who knows his stuff, Paz (The Other Voice, 1991, etc.) elucidates the ways in which societies--mainly Western, but some Asian--have constructed eroticism using the raw material of sex. From ancient Greece through the Middle Ages, the early modern period, and the Cold War to the present, he shows how notions of love, romance, and the erotic have changed. Though at times this long historical account bogs down in the details of specific writers and poems, Paz does an admirable job of maintaining interest by drawing comparisons and restating premises. The aim here is more than providing a lesson in literary history. Paz's real purpose is to come around to the present with the message that eroticism and love must change now as they have changed throughout history. Capitalism, he charges, has made of the body not just a commodity--that, he shows, has been done from time immemorial--but a marketing tool, ``turn[ing] Eros into an employee of Mammon.'' Stripped of its sacredness, the modern body is a soulless collection of functions and activities, says Paz. He finds hope, though, in the voices of scientists who believe they have reached the limits of their ability to explain the world and in those sublime moments when we discover ``the unity of life'' in the carnal embrace. Ultimately, Paz can only plead for companions willing to seek out a glimpse of the ``pure vitality'' that is love, but he does so elegantly. Brimming with insight, thoughtfulness, and sincerity, Paz's essays are a poetic road map to the past, present, and future of love.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-15-100103-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995




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