Sunday, December 21, 2014

PABLO NERUDA: Nobel Prize-Winning Poet

This wonderful book, Pablo Neruda: Nobel Prize-Winning Poet by David Goodnough, is one of the 13 books I bought from Better World Books as part of my 2014 Annual Book Binge.

At a young age, Pablo Neruda knew that he had a gift for writing, but he probably never dreamed that his poetry would make such a difference throughout the world. As a prominent figure in South America throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Neruda strongly believed in political self-expression. His poems during this period, and throughout his life, express the dreams and frustrations common to all people.

In Pablo Neruda: Nobel Prize-Winning Poet, author David Goodnough traces the life of Chile's honored citizen from his young days as a romance poet, to his life as a politician turned exile. Neruda won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1971, and after returning to Chile, was appointed ambassador to France. Even after his death, Neruda's works are read throughout the world, and his achievements have been remembered in books, literature, and in the film Il Postino.

I hadn't plan to read it so soon and certainly not in one sitting, but I did just that today. My cat, Trio, had decided to take a super long evening nap on my lap and my laptop died on me (the battery ran out of juice), so I was immobilized with a black screen and a fur-ball on my lap. I took a look around me, locked my eyes on the pile of Pablo Neruda books just by my side and picked this one out.

Before reading this book, I only know of Neruda as a romantic poet who was very good with words, and women loved him. After reading this book, I am enlightened. He was not only a great poet but also a politician that was actively involved, persecuted and exiled for his political involvement. In his boyhood, his literary interest and prowess did not receive his father's blessing and appreciation. Pablo Neruda's real name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto and to conceal his published writings from his father, he decided to change his name. His choice of name is explained in this book. Despite living in poverty and in hunger, he continued to chase his dreams and ultimately his persistence led to great success. His life was very dramatic and in many ways he invited trouble.

He had an interesting love life and his most crazy encounter (at least it is to me from the reading of this book) was with a Burmese woman when he was given a diplomatic assignment in Rangoon.

He ignored their warnings and became involved so deeply "into the soul and the life of the people" that he fell in love with a native girl. She called herself Josie Bliss and she acted and dressed like and Englishwoman. In the privacy of the house they shared together, however, she donned native dress and use her Burmese name.

Unfortunately, it soon turned out that Neruda had made a mistake. Josie Bliss was possessive and jealous. She had a terrible temper and threw jealous tantrums even when Neruda received a letter or a telegram. She would admit no outsiders into their life together. Sometimes he would wake up at night to see her, dressed all in white, circling his bed with a knife in her hand. (page 41)

I'm glad I also bought Memoirs, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda at Isla Negra, and The Captain's Verses (Bilingual in Spanish and English).

His Memoirs were published shortly after his death and were immediately translated into major languages. He died of a heart attack on September 23, 1973 (I was born on September 25, 1977). As for The Captain's Verses (Los versos del capitán), he completed the book of poems on the beautiful island of Capri, Italy, while seeking refuge from his exile together with his beloved Matilde Urrutia. The book was a series of passionate love poems that expressed his devotion for her. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada) was published when he was twenty years old. One of the unforgettable lines from the book is Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido (Love is so short, and forgetting is so long). I can't wait to read all of them.

This 128-page book is a great introduction to the life of Pablo Neruda. Loved it! I also bought My Life with Pablo Neruda by Matilde Urrutia. I have started reading its Preface and found their relationship to be one of the most interesting love stories I've ever read. More about My Life later!

Read also: Poema 1 from Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada


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