— Octavio Paz Mexican writer laureated with the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature 1914 - 1998
The Clerk's Vision (1949)
Context: The world stretches out before me, the vast world of the big, the little, and the medium. Universe of kings and presidents and jailors, of mandarins and pariahs and liberators and liberated, of judges and witnesses and the condemned: stars of the first, second, third and nth magnitudes, planets, comets, bodies errant and eccentric or routine and domesticated by the laws of gravity, the subtle laws of falling, all keeping step, all turning slowly or rapidly around a void. Where they claim the central sun lies, the solar being, the hot beam made out of every human gaze, there is nothing but a hole and less than a hole: the eye of a dead fish, the giddy cavity of the eye that falls into itself and looks at itself without seeing. There is nothing with which to fill the hollow center of the whirlwind. The springs are smashed, the foundations collapsed, the visible or invisible bonds that joined one star to another, one body to another, one man to another, are nothing but a tangle of wires and thorns, a jungle of claws and teeth that twist us and chew us and spit us out and chew us again. No one hangs himself by the rope of a physical law. The equations fall tirelessly into themselves.
And in regard to the present matter, if the present matters: I do not belong to the masters. I don't wash my hands of it, but I am not a judge, nor a witness for the prosecution, nor an executioner. I do not torture, interrogate, or suffer interrogation. I do not loudly plead for leniency, nor wish to save myself or anyone else. And for all that I don't do and for all that they do to us, I neither ask forgiveness nor forgive. Their piety is as abject as their justice. Am I innocent? I'm guilty. Am I guilty? I'm innocent. (I'm innocent when I'm guilty, guilty when I'm innocent. I'm guilty when … but that is another song. Another song? It's all the same song.) Guilty innocent, innocent guilty, the fact is I quit.