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Pablo Neruda

Biography

The Privileged Mind of Pablo Neruda

 

Only a few gifted men make a difference in the world. Their dedication and hard work for what they love to do, lead them to influence other people’s lives. One of those men, a man of Spanish ancestry, was the famous writer Pablo Neruda. Pablo Neruda was a multifaceted man, who with his work not only contributed to politics, but who also gave perspective to the contemporary literature in Latin America and around the entire world.

 

In 1904, the wife of Jose Del Carmen, Rosa Basoalto gave birth to Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. They lived in a small town in central Chile, called Parral. Rosa was a schoolteacher and Jose worked as a railway employee. Only a few years after the birth of Neftali, Rosa died of tuberculosis. Jose Reyes and his sons moved to Temuco, where he met and married Trinidad Candia Marvedre. Neftali spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, and later on, while he was in high school, he met the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. Mistral noticed his talent and passion towards writing and encouraged him to practice and develop it. Although he had the aptitudes to be a great writer, his family disapproved his ambitions. This fact led Neftali to adopt the pen name of “Pablo Neruda”, in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda[1]. Pablo Neruda wrote his first poem in 1917, with the title of “Mis Ojos” (My Eyes). He started to work writing articles and poems for magazines as “La Mañana”, “Corre- Vuela” and “Selva Austral”.

            After a few years, in 1921, he moved to Santiago, the capital of Chile, to study French at the Pedagogic Institute. Three years later he wrote his master piece, which made him gain international fame as a writer, “Veinte Poemas de Amor y Una Cancion Desesperada”, or “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”.[2]

 

The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.
Deserted like the dwarves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!
Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.
In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.
You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!
(From “A Song of Despair”) [3]

 

At the age of twenty three, Neruda was appointed consul to Myanmar, and became a diplomat around the world. The Spanish Civil War and the murder of Garcia Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain  and then in France. He started working on his collection of poems “España en el Corazon”. [4] He returned, months later to his country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following time was characterized by an orientation towards politics and social matters.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s Pablo Neruda lived with an Argentinean woman, Delia Del Carril, who encouraged him to participate and to get involved in politics. Fascism appeared during that time, inspiring Neruda in his literary works, such as “Residence on Earth”.  Neruda married Delia Del Carril, but the marriage ended a few years later, because this was Neruda’s second marriage and in Chile divorce did not exist, therefore the marriage was never recognized. Eleven years passed and Neruda married Matilde Urrutia, a Chilean singer, who was his inspiration for his later poetry. During that time the leftist candidate, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, won the presidential election in Chile.

 

After being appointed to honorary consulships to Paris, Spain and Cuba, Neruda finally joined the Communist Party and was elected to the Chilean Senate.  The government in Chile at that time was taken by right-wing extremists and that was the reason why the poet fled to Mexico. In a trip to Russia, the landscapes, the education and the county’s writers amazed him. He waited in exile for the extremist’s arrests, and when they got arrested he was able to return to Chile.

 

Salvador Allende, who was the first Socialist to be elected president of Chile, appointed Neruda as Chile’s ambassador in France. Allende had many strong foreign opponents; one of them was the United States government. The opponents were not in favor of the socialist policies and did not want the nationalization of companies owned by the United States corporations. Secretly the opponent government sent money to those who would oppose to Allende’s government. Eventually Chile’s economy began to have problems and suffered from high inflation.[5] General Augusto Pinochet decided to throw a coup to get rid of Allende and get him out of the government. They gave Allende the possibility to go into exile; however he decided to stay in his country and fight. This fact tremendously affected Pablo Neruda, who was a good friend of Salvador Allende and supported him politically. Unfortunately, when the problem in Chile ended, Allende was found dead. There is a possibility that he committed suicide, but   many assert that he was assassinated by the invading soldiers led by Augusto Pinochet.[6]

 

No matter what he wrote; poems, epics or drama, Pablo Neruda wrote about love and things he saw everyday, such as people, rivers and stars. From his stepmother he learned sensitivity, he learned how to love. And from his father he learned determination. His aspirations were to write about the past and the present and to become the voice of the people who once lived. His daily struggles with life and politics also influenced his writings.

 

His knowledge about his country’s culture and other countries’ cultures permitted him to write about people, the things they did and how they lived their lives. Neruda developed four types of writings: love poetry, which was passionate and tender; poetry about his worries and depressions politically and personally; epic poetry which intended to reinterpret Latin America toward freedom, and finally his common poetry, his poetry of everyday.[7]. The political struggles in his country and in other countries gave different characteristics to his writings, he wrote about what he had to deal with everyday. Those political struggles led him to write poems as “Love song for Stalingrad”, “Stones of Chile”, “Fully Empowered”, and others. He reflected in his work the differences between the governments in South America.

 

Two of his contemporaries were Gabriela Mistral, who encouraged him to write, and Jorge Luis Borges. With these two famous writers he shared work and thoughts about literature, and they learned from each other. [8]When many Latin American writers dealt with political or social subjects, Borges focused on eternal questions and the literary heritage of the world. However, Borges criticized his friend Pablo Neruda for denouncing all the South American dictators except Juan Perón, Borges' own arch-enemy.

 

"Perón was then in power. It seems that Neruda had a lawsuit pending with his publisher in Buenos Aires. That publisher, as you probably know, has always been his principal source of income." (Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations, ed. by Richard Burgin, 1998)

 

 

 

Pablo Neruda was recognized and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He was awarded with many prizes around the whole world including the Lenin Peace Prize. He also influenced many writers and literature by creating fantastic pieces of poems and epics such as “Walking Around”, “The Heights of Macchu Picchu”, and “Rings”[9]. ,.  During his long literary career, Pablo Neruda produced more than forty volumes of poetry, translations, and verse drama.

 

 

Even though Pablo Neruda died of leukemia in Santiago, Chile in 1973, many believed that his death was accelerated by the shock produced by the assassination of president Salvador Allende, during the coup lead by General Pinochet, to whom Neruda had a great appreciation.

Pablo Neruda will never be forgotten. He has proved to be one of those gifted men, whose only dream was to create and live in a better world, with justice and peace. Chile and the world, owes him gratitude and admiration towards his hard work and his way to reflect life with the help of his writings.



[1] www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/1971/neruda-bio.html

[2] www.kirjasto.sci.fi/neruda.htm

[3] www.poetryconnection.net/poets/Pablo_Neruda/1843

[4] www.britannica.com/nobel/micro/420_43.html

[5] www.fas.org/irp/world/chile/allende.htm

[6] www.utm.utoronto.ca/~w3his290/A-Allende-biography.html

[8] http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jlborges.htm

[9] almaz.com/nobel/literature/1971a.html