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Octavio Paz, who died in April, was the great poet-critic of Latin America. Michael Schmidt, a friend and translator of his work, recalls his journey from Marxist to maestro

By Michael Schmidt   June 1998

It was in Valencia in 1987 that I first heard Octavio Paz speak of George Orwell. Of course! It was Orwell’s words and deeds that Paz’s own so often called to mind: a politics of unillusion, the courage to confront and affront the Protean ideological ogres of the day.

Writers had gathered in the Catalan city to mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary Republican writers’ congress. Only three of the original delegates were still alive: Stephen Spender, Rafael Alberti and Paz. Paz, then in his 70s, was at the heart of things. He did not invite veneration: he was…

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