The Monkey Grammarian and the Sage Alquimist. Some Reflections on Octavio Paz’s Poetics in El Mono Gramático

Òscar Pujol


This article is a comparison between the poetry of Octavio Paz in The Monkey Grammarian and a 11th century Indian author, Abhinavagupta , whom we call the Sage Alchemist in reference to the Indian theory of aesthetic emotion: rasa. An underlying idea in both authors is that ordinary language masks reality, while poetic language, as the abolition of ordinary language, has the power to unfold a previous reality that is beyond language. Six different characteristics are compared between the two authors and the conclusion is that the greatest discrepancy between them is in the nature of that unspeakable reality that poetry reveals. For the Indian author it is a joyous and an ineffable one: pure consciousness. For Paz it is an intolerable and maddening reality, though at the same time a fascinating one. The difference is a culturally significant one as the Indian tradition worships that ineffable reality, while Western modernity is rather suspicious of it. In this sense Paz exemplifies the dilemma of the modern man: anxiety about the reality prior to language, but also a feeling of wonder that looks to art and poetry as the only means to express that reality beyond words.


Octavio Paz; Abhinavagupta; Mono Gramático, rasa, poetics; language

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