Born in Parral, Chile, on July 12, 1904, poet Pablo Neruda stirred
controversy with his affiliation with the Communist Party and his
outspoken support of Joseph Stallin, Fulgencio Batista and Fidel
Castro, but his poetic mastery was never in doubt, and for it he
was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. At the early
age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily
"La Mañana", among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia - his first
publication - and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor
to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of
Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak
poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at
that time are to be found in his first published
book:Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication
of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his bestknown and most translated works.
Pablo Neruda was born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto in
the Chilean town of Parral in 1904. His father worked for the
railroad, and his mother was a teacher (she died shortly after his
birth). At age 13, he began his literary career as a contributor to
the daily La Mañana, where he published his first articles and
poems. In 1920, he contributed to the literary journal Selva
Australunder the pen name Pablo Neruda, which he assumed in
honor of Czech poet Jan Neruda.
Some of his early poems are found in his first book, Crepusculario
(Book of Twilight), published in 1923, and one of his most
renowned works, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada
(Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), was published the
following year. Twenty Love Poemsmade Neruda a celebrity, and
he thereafter devoted himself to his poetry.
In 1927, Neruda began his long diplomatic career (in the Latin
American tradition of honoring poets with diplomatic posts), and
he moved frequently around the world. In 1935, the Spanish Civil
War began, and Neruda chronicled the atrocities, including the
execution of his friend, Federico Lorca in his España en el corazón
(Spain in Our Hearts).
Over the next 10 years, Neruda would leave and return to Chile
several times. Along the way, he was named Chile's consul to
Mexico and won election to the Chilean Senate. He would also
begin to attract controversy, first with his praise of Joseph Stallin
(in poems such as "Canto a Stalingrado" and "Nuevo canto de
amor a Stalingrado") and later for his poetry honoring Fulgenio
Batista("Saludo a Batista") and Fidel Castro.
Always left-leaning, Neruda joined the Communist Party of Chile
in 1945, but by 1948 the Communist Party was under siege, and
Neruda fled the country with his family. In 1952, the Chilean
government withdrew its order to seize leftist writers and
political figures, and Neruda returned to Chile once again.
Accomplishments and Death
For the next 21 years, Pablo Neruda continued to write
prodigiously (the collection of his complete works, which is
continually being republished, filled 459 pages in 1951; by 1968 it
amounted to 3,237 pages, in two volumes), rising in the ranks of
20th century poets. He also received numerous prestigious
awards, including the International Peace Prize in 1950, the
Lenin Peace Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, and the
Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda died just two years
after receiving his Nobel Prize on September 23, 1973, in
Poem La Carta En El Camino
Adiós, pero conmigo
serás, irás adentro
de una gota de sangre que circule en mis venas
o fuera, beso que me abrasa el rostro
o cinturón de fuego en mi cintura.
Dulce mía, recibe
el gran amor que salió de mi vida
y que en ti no encontraba territorio
como el explorador perdido
en las islas del pan y de la miel.
Yo te encontré después
de la tormenta,
la lluvia lavó el aire
y en el agua
tus dulces pies brillaron como peces.
Adorada, me voy a mis combates.
Arañaré la tierra para hacerte
una cueva y allí tu Capitán
te esperará con flores en el lecho.
No pienses más, mi dulce,
en el tormento
que pasó entre nosotros
como un rayo de fósforo
dejándonos tal vez su quemadura.
La paz llegó también porque regreso
a luchar a mi tierra,
y como tengo el corazón completo
con la parte de sangre que me diste
las manos llenas de tu ser desnudo,
mírame por el mar, que voy radiante,
mírame por la noche que navego,
y mar y noche son los ojos tuyos.
No he salido de ti cuando me alejo.
Ahora voy a contarte:
mi tierra será tuya,
yo voy a conquistarla,
no sólo para dártela,
sino que para todos,
para todo mi pueblo.
Saldrá el ladrón de su torre algún día.