Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life
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The first comprehensive English-language biography of Pablo Neruda, one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.
Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean writer, was born into a poor family in 1904. His love poems would go on to make him a household name throughout the Spanish-speaking world and win him international acclaim. His remarkable life reads like an adventure story, from his involvement in the Spanish Civil War to his flight as an exile from the security forces of his own country. He was a Communist and a lover of humanity who nevertheless clung to his Stalinist views even after the horrors of the gulag were revealed. He married three times and endured the early death of a daughter; he had countless other love affairs and forged close friendships with some of the greatest writers and artists of his time, notably García Lorca and Picasso.
Adam Feinstein, a journalist and prize-winning translator of Spanish and Latin American poetry, delves into a wealth of published and unpublished accounts of Neruda. Drawing on Neruda's poetic work, on original interviews, and on the extensive writing on Neruda that exists in Spanish, he delivers the first English-language biography to illuminate the personal, political, and artistic life of this beloved writer.
love for Matilde. In the sixth section, 'Regreso la sirena' (Return of the Mermaid), the poet explicitly and graphically conflates these two passions. He tells Matilde: I dug and dug night and day on your grave and I rebuilt you. I raised your breasts from the dust, the mouth I adored from its ashes, reconstructed your arms and your legs and your eyes, your hair of twisted metal and I gave you life . . . And that, my love, is just the way they rebuilt Warsaw . . . Now you can
the first edition of the play. Some critics have seen echoes in Joaquin Murieta of Garcia Lorca's farces. The play is an uneasy, sometimes stunningly beautiful, hybrid of epic poetry, love dialogue and burlesque. Robert Pring-Mill detects the influence of Bertolt Brecht on the play, which, he says, would have been a different work if there had been no Threepenny Opera, no Mother Courage. Speaking to Pring-Mill at Isla Negra in 1968, Neruda said that what he had found so fascinating about
person he was talking to. I never heard him talk ill of anyone. He was a genius, not only as a poet but in everything relating to human relationships. The only thing he didn't have was an ear for music! He couldn't understand music. He could hear the sound of birds, people's words. But not music.31 Neruda himself wrote in his memoirs: 'My ear could never recognise any but the most obvious melodies, and even then, only with difficulty.' Significantly, the first piece of music to which he felt
astonishing to discover that, even while he was writing so bitterly and desperately back to Latin America, he was in the grips of an extraordinarily passionate love affair which was to change his life for ever. It was a love affair that left him even more isolated from Burmese high society, a society which knew him as Ricardo Reyes, not Pablo Neruda, which saw him as a diplomat from a distant land, not as a famous poet, and which soon ostracised him mercilessly for publicly daring to take a
that so much should be made of this choice of adjective. After all, in one of his letters to Hector Eandi, on 24 April 1929, he curses stray dogs in the street as los malignos. But the poem does feel like an exorcism of a kind: expunging not so much Josie from his life as his own guilt at leaving her. This explains why he calls the poem 'Widower's Tango', as if he were the one who had been abandoned. Oh, Evil One, by now you'll have found the letter, cried with fury, and insulted my mother's