English Literature
Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

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The Fascinating Life and Enduring Impact of Pablo Neruda: A Celebrated Chilean Poet

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), known as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, was born Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto in Parral, Chile. His journey as a poet was filled with triumphs and challenges, from political roles to exile, and ultimately, receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

As a child, Neruda's father disapproved of his writing, which pushed him to adopt the pen name Pablo Neruda, inspired by Jan Neruda, a Czech poet, or the violinist Wilma Neruda, as a means of distancing himself from his father's judgment.

Early Life and Career

Neruda was born to Jose del Carmen Reyes and Rosa Neftali Basoalto Opazo in 1904. Unfortunately, his mother passed away two months after his birth. At the age of ten, he had already written his first poem, and by 13, he proudly published "Enthusiasm and Perseverance" in a local newspaper. Despite his father's discouragement, Neruda received encouragement from Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945, and pursued his writing passion.

During his early career, Neruda wrote under the name Neftali Reyes and published numerous poems and essays in local magazines. However, in the mid-1920s, he legally changed his name to Pablo Neruda and attended Universidad de Chile in Santiago. Though he initially aspired to become a French teacher, Neruda soon realized his true calling was poetry. In 1923, he published his first book of verse, "Crepusculario," and gained praise for his collection of poems, "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair," in 1924.

Despite facing criticism for its erotic content, "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" has sold millions of copies and is still regarded as one of the highest-selling Spanish poetry collections almost a century after its release.

Diplomatic Work and Political Activism

In 1927, due to financial struggles, Neruda took an honorary consulship in Burma and performed diplomatic duties in Ceylon, Java, and Singapore. During this period, he also explored with his poetry and published two volumes of "Residence of Earth" in 1933 and 1935. It was also during this time that he married his first wife, Marijke Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang.

Neruda's life took a political turn when he returned to Chile in 1939 and was given diplomatic positions in Argentina and Spain. His friendship with renowned poets, including Federico Garcia Lorca, significantly influenced him during this period. Following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the murder of his friend Lorca, Neruda felt compelled to support the Republican movement against the Nationalists. In 1937, he wrote "Espana en el Corazon" to express the horrors he witnessed during the war.

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile and was elected as a senator of the Republic. He joined the Communist party and protested against Chilean President Gonzales Videla, whom he had previously supported during the 1946 Presidential elections. However, Videla turned against Communism and banned it, leading Neruda to flee and go into hiding. In 1949, he escaped to Argentina on horseback and lived in exile until 1952. During this time, he released many works that reflected on his experiences with politics, exile, and his love for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia.

Legacy and Recognition

Eventually returning to Chile, which was under a failing government, Neruda was a strong supporter of presidential candidate Salvador Allende, and his influence as a globally acclaimed poet greatly assisted Allende's Chilean Socialist Party. Neruda's works have been translated into numerous languages, and his legacy continues to inspire aspiring poets and readers alike. In 1971, he was presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature, solidifying his place as one of the most exceptional and influential Latin American poets of his era.

In conclusion, Pablo Neruda's life was filled with twists and turns, but his love for poetry and involvement in political activism remained steadfast. His works continue to captivate readers and inspire future generations of poets, cementing his position as a literary icon in Chile and the world.

In 1970-1972, Neruda served as an ambassador to France and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. However, his declining health led him to return to Chile in 1973, where he witnessed the coup d'état of Allende by General Augusto Pinochet. Many speculate that his death in 1973 was not due to heart failure, as reported, but rather the result of being murdered by Pinochet.

  • In 2015, an investigation into Neruda's death revealed that he may have been killed by being injected with a deadly bacteria. This raised suspicions that Pinochet may have ordered his death.
  • In 2019, further investigations suggested that Neruda may have died of a heart attack caused by prostate cancer. However, some scientists believe that he was intentionally poisoned.

The Legacy of Pablo Neruda: Literature and Poetry

Throughout his life, Pablo Neruda wrote countless poems, covering a wide range of themes and topics. His work explored love, loneliness, desire, destruction, and also delved into important political issues such as communism, oppression, and society.

Neruda's poetry can be found in various anthologies, including a collection of love poems.

Five Must-Read Books by Pablo Neruda

Here are five of Neruda's poetry books that illustrate his brilliance:

  • Libro de las Preguntas: This collection of poems poses 316 questions without providing answers, allowing readers to tap into their imagination and intuition. It is a work of surrealism that challenges the need for definitive solutions. One of the questions reads, "Why do trees hide the splendor of their roots?" (Poem III, Stanza 2).
  • Viente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada: Published when he was only 19, this book of 20 poems and one song portrays the passion and sensuality of a love affair that eventually turns into sorrow and detachment. It has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. A notable verse reads, "Here I love you, and the horizon hides you in vain.I love you still among these cold things.Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels that cross the sea towards no arrival" ('Here I Love You', Stanza 4).
  • Cien Sonetos de Amor: This book of 100 sonnets celebrates love and delves into the depths of the human soul. Written for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, these sonnets are divided into four sections: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. A beautiful stanza reads, "I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where, I love you directly without problems or pride:I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love, except in this form in which I am not nor are you, so close that your hand upon my chest is mine, so close that your eyes close with my dreams" (Sonnet XVII, Stanza 3).
  • Odas Elementales: A series of odes that describe ordinary objects such as tomatoes or socks in a direct, simple, and humorous way. Neruda found beauty in these mundane items and even infused his political beliefs into his writing. In the ode titled "Ode to Tomatoes," Neruda writes, "The street filled with tomatoes, midday, summer, light is halved like a tomato, its juice runs through the streets" (Lines 1-12).
  • Los Versos del Capitán: This book of love poems was written by Neruda during his exile on the island of Capri for his lover, Matilde Urrutia. It captures the intensity and passion of new love and showcases Neruda's deep devotion to Matilde. A memorable verse reads, "Take bread away from me, if you wish, take air away, but do not take from me your laughter" ('Your Laughter', Stanza 1).

The Timeless Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda, known as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, left a lasting impact on literature with his thousands of profound works. His versatile and powerful writing style, influenced by his political beliefs, continues to captivate readers worldwide. Here are just a few of his most famous and influential poems.

  • 'Soneto LXVI: I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You' (1959)
  • 'Tu risa' (Your Laughter) (1952)
  • 'Galope Muerto' (Dead Gallop) (1935)
  • 'Si tu me olvidas' (If You Forget Me) (1952)
  • 'Alturas de Machu Picchu' (The Heights of Machu Picchu) (1950)
  • 'Sonnet XVII' (1959)

The Journey of Pablo Neruda: From Romanticism to Surrealism

Pablo Neruda's writing style evolved throughout his career, starting with the Romantic style of his first published collection, Crepusculario (1923). This style, also known as Symbolist poetry, used vivid imagery to allude to mystical and religious themes. As Neruda's work progressed, he transitioned to a Surrealist approach, using juxtapositions and fantastical elements to explore themes of universal decay and provoke thought. In his poem, 'Dream Horse', he creates a dream-like world by blending reality with fantasy.

  • "There is an extensive country in the sky
  • with the superstitious carpets of the rainbow
  • and with vesperal vegetation
  • towards there I journey, not without a certain fatigue,
  • treading an earth disturbed by rather fresh tombs,
  • I dream among those plants of tangled vegetation"

Aside from his mastery of different styles, Neruda was also deeply involved in politics. A member of the Communist Party and a supporter of Chile's first Socialist president, he used his poetry to address societal issues and oppression. His most notable historical epic poem, Canto General (1950), celebrates the pre-Columbian history of Latin America and instills pride in its readers.

Neruda's career spanned over four decades, during which he wrote over 3,000 pages of poems. In 1946, he changed his name from Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto to Pablo Neruda, solidifying his place as a literary legend. His legacy continues to thrive, inspiring generations of poets and readers alike.

In 1973, Neruda passed away at the age of 69, with speculation that he was murdered under the orders of Chile's dictator, Pinochet. Despite his untimely death, his profound works continue to live on and impact the world of literature.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pablo Neruda

  • Who is Pablo Neruda? Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was a Chilean poet and diplomat.
  • When did Pablo Neruda change his name? In 1946, Pablo Neruda changed his name from Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto to Pablo Neruda.
  • What is Pablo Neruda known for? Pablo Neruda is known for his versatile writing style and powerful political messages in his poetry.

Pablo Neruda: Exploring Love, Politics, and Society through Poetry

Pablo Neruda is a renowned poet known for his profound exploration of various themes in his books of poetry. Through his writing, he delved into complex subjects such as love, loneliness, desperation, oppression, communism, and society.

  • How many poems did Pablo Neruda write? In his lifetime, Pablo Neruda wrote over 3,000 pages worth of poems, showcasing his vast talent and dedication to his craft.
  • What literary movements did Pablo Neruda belong to? Pablo Neruda was a member of two major literary movements - the Romantic movement and the Surrealist movement. He was heavily influenced by the ideologies of these movements, which can be seen in his works.

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