Octavio Paz as Literary Character

An important dimension of the reception of Octavio Paz as a writer is to be found in his representation as a character in works of literature. This aspect of Paz’s literary afterlife has thus far not been studied in a systematic fashion. In this paper, I begin by making a distinction between the roman à clef, in which characters are taken from real life, but disguised behind fictional names, on the one hand, and novels in which an author appears as a character in a fictional world, but under his or her real name, on the other. A second vector around which I will organize my presentation will be the distinction between works that focus on Paz’s private life, and works that concern themselves with his role as a leading public intellectual in Mexico. I will then proceed to a brief discussion of Elena Garro’s Testimonios de Mariana (1981), a roman à clef that portrays the difficult marriage between Garro and Paz in the 1950s. After that, I will provide an overview of a series of novels that focus on Paz as intellectual, including La región más transparente (1958) and Adán en Edén (2009) by Carlos Fuentes, Luis Guillermo Piazza’s La mafia (1967), Los detectives salvajes (1998) by Roberto Bolaño and “La vanagloria” (2008) by Enrique Serna. By way of conclusion, I will ask what these works tell us about Octavio Paz, as well as what they reveal about the Mexican intellectual world.


  • Spanish American Studies