As the first (and currently only) Mexican recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature, the essayist and poet Octavio Paz was one of Mexico's most influential writers of the 20th century.
From his early poetry, through a career in the Mexican diplomatic service and beyond, this author used his writing to describe and study the identity of his people. It was his pivotal book length essay The Labyrinth of Solitude, which cemented his international reputation and influenced so many other writers in Mexico.
Paz also wrote for, founded or co-founded and edited a number of important magazines dedicated to the arts and politics. In recognition of his importance, his accolades extended beyond the Nobel prize: in 1977 he won the Jerusalem Prize for literature; Harvard University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1980; the prestigious Cervantes award was bestowed upon him in 1981 and a year later he also won the American Neustadt Prize.
Accompanying and inspired by his success, came a surge of other Mexican authors. These include Carlos Fuentes who focused his writing efforts on the state of Mexican culture and politics and Juan Rulfo, who is perhaps not as well known internationally but is considered by many to be one of Latin America's most influential writers. After this surge of creativity, Mexico struggled to find a place in worldwide literature but the last decade has seen a new wave of authors originating from the Latin American country.
From Valeria Luiselli, whose first novel 'The Story of My Teeth' was published in 2013, was critically acclaimed and won a number of literary prizes; to Yuri Herrera who published his second novel, 'Signs Preceding the End of the World' in 2015, Mexican literature is entertaining audiences of every type around the world
Mexican Representation in London’s Book Fair
Mexico was well represented at the London Book Fair in 2015 as the Market Focus country. This initiative works to create both commercial and cultural partnerships by putting a spotlight on the publishing trade links with the chosen country or region. The aim was to showcase the dynamic publishing industry in Mexico and raise the profile of its long literary tradition. Mexican organisations and publishers have continued to attend the London Book Fair in the years following 2015, with the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Editorial Mexicana (National Association of the Mexican Publishing Industry) having attended every year.
Mexico’s rich history and culture are an obvious target for authors to capture in the pages of its strong literature. The representation of Mexico in the pages of foreign works has arguably been one-sided for generations, but now Mexican authors are taking back control. These modern writers are creating interesting and accessible auto-fiction stories; cultural and political mysteries and realistic pictures of the culture.
In addition to being guest of honour at the London Book Fair, 2015 also saw a wider Mexico-UK Dual Year where the Year of Mexico was celebrated in the UK and similarly the Year of the UK in Mexico. This ambitious plan, which incorporated a range of extensive and thought-provoking exchanges regarding art, culture, science, academia, business and tourism, strengthened relationships between the countries and the organisations within them. Literature is part of this maturing relationship catering to every aspect of both cultures.
From Spanish to English
Every good Mexican book deserves the expanded audience a translation into English brings. For a couple of decades, Mexican authors were forgotten in international markets. However, with the new wave of representation, more and more authors are once again being translated into English.
Newer platforms for authors have become available in Mexico, allowing both amateur and professional writers to reach audiences through the internet. With the UK’s help, these writers have managed to reach markets they could only dream of in the past and the maturing relations between the two nations could catapult authors to even greater heights.
The field of Mexican literature is perfectly poised to expand and influence the literary world even further.