A Tale of Two Gardens

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A TALE OF TWO GARDENS: POEMS FROM INDIA 1952-1995 is a slim collection that gathers from Octavio Paz’s voluminous work the poems he wrote about India, some of which he composed while Mexico’s ambassador to India, and others while on visits. These poems are energetic and meditative at once; they provide a spirit of India through visual details and personal responses.

Readers new to Paz may well think of Allen Ginsberg’s work because of the free flow of ideas and language, the Buddhism, and the stinging political content. This collection looks back at British rule as well as at the fifty years of Indian independence, and it touches on ironies and ugliness of oppression as well as evoking the sensuous beauty of the land and its people.

Paz tends to view Mexico and India as complements or opposites, and the two gardens of the title (and the title poem) are his childhood garden in Mixcoac and the garden of his home in India. “A Tale of Two Gardens” is a fluid, transcendent poem, defining what makes for a sense of place while describing these two particular gardens which, conflated, transcend time and geography. Readers familiar with Paz’s essays on Buddhism and Eastern/Western culture will find his ideas embodied in these poems. Previous familiarity with Paz, however, is not necessary; anyone even slightly drawn toward Eastern thought will be captivated by this book.

Containing adaptations of Sanskrit poems as well as poetic ruminations on all aspects of India, this collection is an excellent introduction to Paz.