cover image On Poets & Others

On Poets & Others

Octavio Paz. Seaver Books, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-0003-0

In these short, polemical, engaged essays, the noted Mexican critic and poet locks horns with writers, past and present. He calls Dostoyevski ""our great contemporary,'' a novelist who forces us to see our divided selves, our nihilism. Whitman, the sincere dreamer of utopian democracy, is contrasted with Poe, Melville and Dickinson, whose writings are ``more like attempts to escape from the American nightmare.'' Paz is disappointed in Sartre, a thinker who ``always preferred shadows to realities.'' While defending Solzhenitsyn's Christian humanism, he feels the novelist's ignorance of modern history amounts to arrogance``a very Russian trait.'' Paz investigates the act of seeing in Bunuel's cinema of disillusion, William Carlos Williams's search for American roots, Michaux's mescaline visions and Breton's magic surrealism. (September 19)