Zaid, Gabriel 1934–

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Zaid, Gabriel 1934–


Born January 24, 1934, in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico; son of Carlos and Margarita Zaid; married Basia Batorska (a painter), March 20, 1973. Ethnicity: "Palestinian descent." Education: Monterrey Institute of Technology, graduated, 1956. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Office—Ibcon S.A., Gutenberg 224, 11590 Mexico City, Mexico. E-mail—[email protected].


Monterrey Institute of Technology, Monterrey, Mexico, industrial engineer, 1955; Ibcon, Mexico City, Mexico, president, 1958—. Member of editorial board, Vuelta, 1976-92.


El Colegio Nacional (fellow), Academia Mexicana de la Lengua (fellow).


Xavier Villaurrutia Award, 1972, for Leer poesía; Banamex Award, 1980, for El progreso improductivo; fellow, El Colegio Nacional, 1984—; Magda Donato Award, 1986, for La poesía en la práctica; fellow of Academia Mexicana de la Lengua, 1986-2002; Anagrama Award, 1996, for Los demasiados libros.


Fábula de Narciso y Ariadna (poem), Katharsis (Monterrey, Mexico), 1958.

La poesía, fundamento de la ciudad (essays), Ediciones Sierra Madre (Monterrey, Mexico), 1963, 2nd edition, 1964.

Seguimiento (poetry), Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 1964.

Campo nudista (poetry), J. Mortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), 1969.

La máquina de cantar, Siglo XXI (Mexico City, Mexico), 1970, 3rd edition, 1974.

(Editor) Ómnibus de poesía mexicana, Siglo XXI (Mexico City, Mexico), 1971, 26th edition, 2005.

Leer poesía (criticism; title means "Reading Poetry"), J. Mortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), 1972, 7th edition, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 1999.

Los demasiados libros, C. Lohlé (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1972, 8th edition, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 1996, translation by Natasha Wimmer published as So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, Paul Dry Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Práctica mortal (poetry), Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 1973, 2nd edition, SEP Lecturas Mexicanas (Mexico City, Mexico), 1992.

(Editor, with José Emilio Pacheo) José Carlos Becerra, El otoño recorre las islas: obra poética, 1961-1970, Ediciones Era (Mexico City, Mexico), 1973, 7th edition, 2002.

Cómo leer en bicicleta: problemas de la cultura y el poder en México (essays; title means "How to Read While Driving a Bicycle"), J. Mortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), 1975, 4th edition, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 1996.

Cuestionario: poemas, 1951-1976, Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 1976.

Canciones de Vidyapati (poetry), Editorial Latitudes (Mexico City, Mexico), 1978.

(Editor, with Carlos Pellicer López) Carlos Pellicer, Cosillas para el Nacimiento, Editorial Latitudes (Mexico City, Mexico), 1978.

El progreso improductivo, Siglo XXI (Mexico City, Mexico), 1979, 8th edition, El Colegio Nacional (Mexico City, Mexico), 2004.

(Compiler and author of prologue) Manuel Ponce, Antología poética, Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 1980, 2nd edition, SEP Lecturas Mexicanas (Mexico City, Mexico), 1991.

(Editor) Asamblea de poetas jóvenes de México, Siglo XXI (Mexico City, Mexico), 1980, 4th edition, Contenido (Mexico City, Mexico), 1991.

La feria del progreso, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1982.

La poesía en la práctica, SEP Lecturas Mexicanas (Mexico City, Mexico), 1985, 3rd edition, Contenido (Mexico City, Mexico), 1992.

(Compiler and author of prologue) Daniel Cosío Villegas, Daniel Cosío Villegas: Imprenta y vida pública, Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 1985, 2nd edition, 2005.

Adivinos o libreros, Librerías del Prado (Mexico City, Mexico), 1986.

Un amor imposible de López Velarde, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico City, Mexico), 1986.

La economía presidencial, Vuelta (Mexico City, Mexico), 1987, 6th edition, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 2000.

De los libros al poder, Grijalbo (Mexico City, Mexico), 1988, 7th edition, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 2002.

Sonetos y canciones (poetry), El Tucán de Virginia (Mexico City, Mexico), 1992.

Obras (collected works), four volumes, El Colegio Nacional (Mexico City, Mexico), 1993-2004.

La nueva economía presidencial, Grijalbo (Mexico City, Mexico), 1994.

Adiós al PRI, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 1995.

Hacen falta empresarios creadores de empresarios, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 1995, 10th edition, 2004.

Reloj de sol: poesía 1952-1992, Norma (Bogotá, Colombia), 1995, 6th edition, Conaculta (Mexico City, Mexico), 2004.

Tres poetas católicos (criticism), Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 1997.

Critica del mundo cultural (essays), El Colegio Nacional (Mexico City, Mexico), 1999, 2nd edition, 2004.

(Editor and author of prologue and notes), Carlos Pellicer, Antología mínima (poetry), Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 2001.

Tout est si clair que sa fait peur (poetry anthology), Écrits de Forges (Quebec, Canada), 2001.

Antología general, Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 2004.

El costo de leer y otros ensayos (essays), Conaculta (Mexico City, Mexico), 2004.

The Secret of Fame (essays), Paul Dry Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2008.

Poetry represented in more than 100 anthologies, including New Poetry of Mexico, edited by Mark Strand and Octavio Paz, Dutton (New York, NY), 1970; Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writings, edited by Quincy Troupe and Rainer Schulte, Vintage (New York, NY), 1975; Twentieth-Century Latin-American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology, edited by Stephen Tapscott, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1997; Where Words like Monarchs Fly, edited by George McWhirter, Anvil Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1998; and God and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths, edited by Nina Kossman, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including Plural, Letras Libres, Dissent, El Mercurial, Miami Herald, Mundo Nuevo, New Republic, Le Monde, Time, and Vuelta.

Zaid's writings have been translated into Dutch, French, Polish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, Slovenian, Swedish, and Japanese.


Gabriel Zaid has published a number of works, including collections of poetry, essays, and literary criticism. His poetry is recognizable by its succinct poetic style and its author's recurrent focus on such themes as love, death, a woman's beauty, and the meaning of life. Zaid's tonality is often conversational and informal, and he uses irreverent humor to handle conventional topics. In an essay first published in Vuelta, Octavio Paz listed the qualities evident in Zaid's poetry even early in his career: an economy of word, unerring tone, an unexpected burst of humor or hint of eroticism, and an imaginative use of the time continuum.

Merlin H. Forster discussed the works of Zaid along with those of three other Mexican writers—Marco Antonio Montes de Oca, José Emilio Pacheco, and Homero Aridjis—in an essay published in Tradition and Renewal: Essays on Twentieth-Century Latin-American Literature and Culture: "The expressions of beauty, both natural and created, is fundamental for each poet, and each has an awareness of the mythologi- cal and even the magical as a part of life," Forster commented. "Zaid takes a half-serious, half-sardonic view of all he surveys…. Taken together, these four voices represent strong individuality with both successes and failures, and collectively they do a great deal to advance the cause of Mexican poetic expression. They are not slavish imitators of a recent or distant past, but rather use a rich legacy to express the committed Mexican humanism which is a product of their peculiar circumstances."

In addition to his thoughtful poetry, Zaid has gained particular critical recognition for his enlightened prose concerning world issues. Murray Kempton, a reviewer for the New York Review of Books, noted that in Zaid's writings on El Salvador, for example, the writer "has responded with … dense and intimate studies of confusion whose blending of the cynical with the morally concerned guides us as close as we can come to an understanding of affairs like this, which is that they cannot be understood by persons who look for a right side and a wrong one…. Zaid writes that the ‘true question for now is how to get those who believe in violence out of the picture.’" Zaid has also focused his prose closer to home, as in Cómo leer en bicicleta: problemas de la cultura y el poder en México. Reviewing the book in Plural, Mario Vargas Llosa commented that the originality of Zaid's essays extends beyond his use of experimental writing techniques, to the questions they pose, and to Zaid's attitudes regarding these questions. Dubbing Cómo leer en bicicleta a playful work, Vargas Llosa concluded that, despite its serious subject matter, Zaid demonstrates a rare capacity to evoke in readers both a heightened understanding and laughter.

Zaid's writing took another direction when he published So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance. In it he muses on the balance between readers and writers (there are always more willing writers than there seem to be willing readers), the diversity of material that today's publishers deliver to both general readers and specialist seekers of knowledge and entertainment, and the satisfaction of discovering the right book for the right reader. He points out that book publishers can offer limited print runs for specialist audiences, in contrast to other media outlets like the feature film industry, for example, which often requires a blockbuster success simply to enable its backers to break even on their investment. Zaid rejoices in the chaotic variety of books available and boasts of a personal collection numbering in the thousands, hinting that it is possible to own many more books than one will ever read, and to do so without guilt. In her Booklist review, Donna Seaman described So Many Books as "lively, cosmopolitan, and piquant." A Publishers Weekly contributor called it "an appealing, meditative collection of thoughts and observations."



Camp, Roderic A., Intellectuals and the State in Twentieth-Century Mexico, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1985.

Foster, David William, Mexican Literature: A History, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1994.

Morse, Richard M., New World Soundings: Culture and Ideology in the Americas, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1989.

Tradition and Renewal: Essays on Twentieth-Century Latin-American Literature and Culture, University of Illinois Press (Chicago, IL), 1975.


Booklist, September 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, p. 24.

Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos, May, 1996, Aurelio Asiain, "Gabriel Zaid, Poeta," p. 111.

El País (Madrid, Spain), October 21, 1995, José María Guelbenzu, "Fascinante muestra de clasicismo y modernidad: ironía y profundidad en la poesía de Gabriel Zaid," p. 10.

Gaceta del Fondo de Cultura Económica, March, 1975, José Miguel Oviedo, "Amor y humor en Zaid," p. 17.

Handbook of Latin-American Studies (annual), 1972, Carolyn Morrow, review of Campo nudista, p. 503; 1974, Betty Tyree Osek, review of Ómnibus de poesía mexicana, p. 416; 1982, Carolyn Morrow, reviews of Asamblea de poetas jóvenes de México, p. 494, Antología poética, p. 507, and Cuestionario: poemas, 1951-1976, p. 510.

Letras libres, July, 1999, Julio Ortega, "Teorema de Zaid," p. 100.

New Yorker, October 6, 2003, Leo Carey, review of So Many Books, p. 20.

New York Review of Books, April 29, 1982, Murray Kempton, "A Guide to El Salvador," p. 36; July 11, 1994, Sara Kerr, "The Mystery of Mexican Politics," p. 29.

Plural (Mexico City, Mexico), June, 1976, Mario Vargas Llosa, "La excepción a la regla," pp. 56-57.

Publishers Weekly, July 28, 2003, review of So Many Books, p. 91.

Spectator, December 18, 2004, Peter Blegvad, review of So Many Books, p. 95.

Vuelta, March, 1977, Octavio Paz, "Respuestas a Cuestionario—y algo más," p. 43; July, 1987, Richard M. Morse, "Latinoámerica hacia una redención de la ideología," p. 34; February, 1995, Adolfo Castañón, "Gabriel Zaid," p. 53; December, 1996, Enrique Krauze, "Apuntes para una biografía de Vuelta," p. 11.


Gabriel Zaid Home Page, (December 28, 2007).