cover image The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism

The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism

Octavio Paz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100103-3

In a gem of a book, Mexican poet, critic and essayist Paz explores the boundaries between love, sex and eros. He defines eroticism as sexuality transfigured by the imagination, and romantic love as a desire for completeness manifested as a mysterious attraction toward a single person. The Nobel laureate moves easily in these erudite, reflective essays through Plato, Sappho, Proven al love poetry, Dante, Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji, Gnostic and Taoist erotic practices, Proust, Joyce, Freud, Breton and Lawrence. He argues that love, in the West, is an exercise in freedom, a creative and subversive sentiment, whereas in the East love has been conceived within a religious tradition. Modern sexual freedom, according to Paz, has become a narcissistic pursuit, accompanied by the erosion of family and personal values. Rejecting comparisons between the human mind and the computer, he calls for a dialogue between science and philosophy that restores the centrality of love and the soul. (Mar.)