RE/Search: What is the relationship between dissidence and the role of the writer?
Octavio Paz: When I was young I took as my own a motto of Andre Gide: The writer must know how to swim against the current. This motto is valid for every person.
R/S: Do you think THE REBEL (by Albert Camus) has retained its force?
OP: I met Camus when he was writing ‘L’Homme Revolte.’ Actually, to translate ‘revolte’ as ‘rebel’ is not entirely exact. In the word ‘revolt’ there are shades and meanings that don’t appear in ‘rebellion.’ In ALTERNATING CURRENT I tried to show the different senses of rebellion, revolt, and revolution. Rebellion is a term of military origin and has an individualist cast; Revolution and Revolt are sister terms but Revolution is more intellectual, a philosophical term, while Revolt is older and more spontaneous. Revolution is revolt converted into theory and system. Camus’ book would have meant much more if he had made a more precise distinction between the ancient and healthy revolt and the modern revolution. It was not the rebel but the revolutionary who, after the 18th century, made revolt into a system and the system into tyranny.
R/S: Could you tell us something about the last years of Breton?
OP: Breton was not only incorruptible but lucid. But in those days his lucidity appeared, to the ‘right-thinking left,’ an idealist confusion. Those were years of solitude and isolation. Breton seemed like a poor deluded man alongside the philosophical realist that was Jean Paul Sartre. Time has passed and now we understand that the true realist, he who was closer to reality and history, was Breton, the poet of delirium…
R/S: As a way of concluding these reflections, what, for you, is the basis of a new form of critical thinking?
OP: There are 2 obstacles which oppose the elaboration of a new idea of society. The first is the identification of social progress with industrial development—an error into which Marxism has fallen. There is one great precursor who can help us out of this bind—FOURIER. With an extraordinary ability to anticipate the future, Fourier understood that industrial development is not something desirable in itself. Many times Fourier affirms that the person who works in a factory is necessarily unfortunate or, as we would say today, alienated. For this reason he proposed a society with a minimum of industries and gave agricultural a fundamental role.