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Bolivia’s most distinctive literary voice in the twentieth century was Jaime Saenz (1921–86), the mystic poet of the city of La Paz. Idiosyncratic and bohemian, his bouts of alcoholism and late-night carousing and inspiration were legendary, and he exercised a powerful influence on the younger countercultural writers and artists who revolved around him. His dense and mysterious poetry at times sailed in ecstasy and at times plunged into lugubrious shadows. Critics consider his poem “To Cross This Distance” / “Recorrer esta distancia” (1973), extracted below, one of the most mature works of one of the finest poets ever to have...

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