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Pacheco, José Emilio (1939–)

Pacheco, José Emilio (1939–)

José Emilio Pacheco (b. 30 June 1939), Mexican poet, novelist, short-story writer, literary critic, editor, translator, and journalist. Pacheco, a native of Mexico City and a graduate of the National University, stands out for both his creative singularity and the versatility of his cultural activities. Like two distinguished predecessors, Alfonso Reyes and Octavio Paz, he is able to create both highly imaginative works and remarkable scholarly studies.

Pacheco is a poet of desolation, obsessed with the destructive effect of time and moved by apocalyptic flashes, who has gradually abandoned an intimate and introspective poetic voice to acquire, from No me preguntes cómo pasa el tiempo (1969), a diction in tune with contemporary sensibilities—conversational, epigrammatic, impersonal, and ironic. He considers writing to be a social act that belongs to no one in particular. Thus, the importance in his poetry of translations ("approximations"), of parodic rewriting of other works, of apocryphal masks, and of intertextuality (the process of creating literature from literature). In many ways his poetry is a palimpsest of readings, a dialogue between his own words and those of others, from which his authentic poetic voice emerges. Tarde o temprano (1980) collects his poetry to 1980. His subsequent books of poetry—including Ciudad de la memoria (1989) and An Ark for the Next Millennium (1993)—show him to be one of the most accomplished poets of our age.

Like his poetry, Pacheco's narrative is tinged by the dominant presence of the passing of time, but it also reveals other dimensions, particularly the betrayal of childhood and innocence, the appearance of the fantastic in daily experiences, and the persistence of cruelty and injustice throughout history. His short-story collections (El viento distante, 1963; El principio del placer, 1972; and La sangre de Medusa, 1990) and his novels (Morirás lejos, 1967, and Las batallas en el desierto, 1981) exemplify his ability to respond to the many crises of society with innovative literary creations.

He has taught literature at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) as well as various universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition, he has been awarded various prizes for his poetry including the Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize (2005) and was unanimously elected to the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua (2006).

See alsoPaz, Octavio; Reyes Ochoa, Alfonso.


Yvette Jiménez De Báez, Diana Morán, and Edith Negrín, Ficción e historia: La narrativa de José Emilio Pacheco (1979).

Luis Antonio De Villena, José Emilio Pacheco (1985).

Hugo J. Verani, ed., José Emilio Pacheco ante la crítica (1987; 2d ed., enlarged, 1994).

Additional Bibliography

Friis, Ronald. José Emilio Pacheco and the Poets of the Shadows. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2001.

Monasterios Pérez, Elizabeth. Dilemas de la poesía del fin del siglo. La Paz, Bolivia: Plural Editores, 2001.

                                         Hugo J. Verani

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