Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973), Chilean poet, considered one of the most important Latin American literary figures of the 20th century. His real name was Neftalí Reyes Basoalto (in full, Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto.) He took his pen name from Czech writer and poet Jan Neruda; it would later become his legal name. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.
Neruda was born in Parral, a city some 300 km to the south of Santiago, where his father was a railway employee. His mother died soon after he was born, and Neruda and his father soon moved to Temuco, where his father remarried Doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. At thirteen, he submitted a few of his poems to the local daily newspaper, La Mañana. His first poem was titled "Entusiasmo y perseverancia", or "Enthusiasm and Perseverance". In 1920 he sent more poems to the literary journal Selva Austral under the pen name Pablo Neruda.
Neruda published his first collection of poems, La Canción de la fiesta in 1920. He had knocked on the door of Gabriela Mistral, the headmistress of his school (and another Nobel Prize winner), and asked her if his poems were worth publishing. He only published them upon her agreement that they were worthy of publishing. In 1923 he released the critically acclaimed Crepusculario, and the following year he published Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, or Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair, one of his best-known works. The Heights of Macchu Picchu is considered one of his best works.
Literary experts agree that the poet's defining work was Canto General, an extensive work about the Americas that he wrote while living in hiding during 1948 and 1949, when he was persecuted by the government of Gabriel González Videla (1948-1952), which banned the Communist Party, for which Neruda had been elected senator.
Neruda studied French and education at the University of Chile. In 1927 the government gave him honorary consulships to many countries. These jobs let him travel to seven different countries, including Spain and Burma. While on diplomatic service, Neruda read and tried many different types of poems. During that time, he wrote the first two volumes of Residencia en la tierra, which included many surrealistic poems for which later became famous.
Neruda went on to win many awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He also won the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953.
Neruda had three wives, María Antonieta Hagenaar, Delia de Carril, and Matilde Urrutia. He married María in 1930, but they divorced in 1936. He lived with Delia from the 1930s until they were divorced in 1955. They were married in 1943. In 1966, he married Matilde Urrutia.
In his beach-house (Isla Negra). Behind him a figurehead, one of his favorite collections.
Politics influenced many parts of his life, including his job, his poems, and his death. He was very concerned about social justice and equality, which is reflected in many of his poems.
Neruda joined the Republican movements in Spain and France in 1937 after the Spanish Civil War. He was instrumental in evacuating 2000 Spanish Republicans to Chile in 1939 after their defeat by Franco. His experience of the civil war and its aftermath were a major factor in moving him away from an inward focused Romanticism and towards a more political perspective.
Although he was an anarchist for a while, on March 4, 1945 he was elected a Communist senator for Antofagasta and Tarapacá. He officially joined the Communist Party of Chile four months later. After the violent repression of a miner's strike in Lota by the Chilean government in October 1947, he became an outspoken critic of President Gabriel González Videla and his policies. His opposition culminated in a dramatic speech in the Chilean senate in which he read the names of the miners (and their families) who were imprisoned at a concentration camp in Pisagua .
After his speech to the senate, which came to be known as "Yo acuso" ("I accuse" in Spanish), Neruda was forced underground. In March 1949 he fled over the mountains to Argentina on horse back. From there he went to Europe where he spent three years in exile. He returned to Chile in 1952.1
He nearly ran for president of Chile, but ended up giving his support to Salvador Allende who was inaugurated in 1970 as the first democratically elected Marxist head of state.
Neruda died of prostate cancer in the evening of September 23, 1973, at Santiago's Santa María Clinic. Two days later, his funeral took place surrounded by military machine guns (the military coup d'état against Allende's government took place 12 days before), but nonetheless it turned into the first act of rebellion and public denunciation against Gen. Augusto Pinochet, whose dictatorship lasted until 1990.
Neruda owned three houses in Chile; today they are open as museums:
1 Information on Neruda's political involvement from 1939 to 1952 from "More blood than ink: Edited extracts from Pablo Neruda: A Biography, by Adam Feinstein" http://books.guardian.co.uk/extracts/story/0,6761,1252852,00.html in The Guardian, Saturday July 3, 2004
- A&E life story of Neruda http://www.biography.com/search/article.jsp?aid=9421737&page=2&search=
- Works of Neruda http://sunsite.dcc.uchile.cl/chile/misc/odas.html (some translated into English)
- "True Stone and Epitaph: the Poetry of Pablo Neruda" http://www.eclectica.org/v8n4/purdy_neruda.html by Gilbert Wesley Purdy. A full length book review/essay which includes a critical biography of Pablo Neruda.
- La Sebastiana http://www.lasebastiana-neruda.cl/ - one of the homes of Neruda.
Celebrating Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/07/16/1442233 – Democracy Now! interviews Martin Espada, poet and professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
- Pablo Neruda, Winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature http://www.nobelprizes.com/nobel/literature/1971a.html
- The poet conqueror http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/biography/0,,1268470,00.html - A review of Neruda: A Passion for Life by Adam Feinstein in The Guardian
Last updated: 02-11-2005 00:50:19