MEXICO CITY — POET AND ESSAYIST Octavio Paz, whose haunting, evocative writing represents a combination of modern and classical Spanish with echoes of pre-conquest Mexico, won the Nobel Prize for Literature yesterday.
The Swedish Academy of Letters, acting in Stockholm, honored the 76-year-old former diplomat for "impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity."
It praised his "exquisite love poetry," as well as his social and literary essays, and particularly lauded his international perspective.
His essays on Mexican society, the academy said, make him "a lodestar in the tide of opinion."
Among Paz's works cited by the academy was "The Labyrinth of Solitude," an exploration of Mexican identity that has become a standard text in courses on Mexican history and political science since its publication in 1950.
The academy also made special mention of the 1957 poem "Sun Stone," inspired by a huge Aztec calendar stone, calling it a "suggestive work" that "seems to incorporate, interpret and reconstrue major existential questions -- death, time, love and reality."
Paz, who is in New York to help open an exhibition of Mexican art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said the award "was a total surprise." He is the first Mexican citizen to win the literature prize.
The $700,000 prize "means great love for a writer, I suppose -- not in the sense of a passport to immortality, but it gives the opportunity to have a wider audience," he continued.
Paz was born in Mexico City on March 31, 1914; his mother was Spanish, from Andalusia, while his father was Indian and Spanish.