Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose
real name is Neftalicardo Reyes Basoalto, was born on 12 July, 1904, in
the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his
mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his
father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried dorinidad
Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where
he also got to know
Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls' secondary school, who took a
liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some
articles to the daily "La Ma", 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 best-known and most translated works.
Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at
the University of Chile in Santiago.
Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of
honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore,
Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic production during that
difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric
surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked
his literary breakthrough.
The Spanish Civil War and the murder of GarcLorca, whom Neruda knew,
affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in
Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of
poems Espan el Corazi> (1937). The same year he returned to his
native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the
following period was characterised by an orientation towards political and
social matters. Espan el Corazi> had a great impact by virtue of its
being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.
In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing
in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, Consul General in Mexico, where he
rewrote his Canto General de Chile, transforming it into an epic poem
about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its
historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto General, was published in
Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately
250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes
the central part of Neruda's production. Shortly after its publication,
Canto General was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these
poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living
In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of
the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his
protests against President Gonzᬥz Videla's repressive policy against
striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for
two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different
European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he
published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities;
one example is Las Uvas y el Viento (1954), which can be regarded as the
diary of Neruda's exile. In Odas elementales (1954- 1959) his message is
expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects
of the hymns - things, events and relations - are duly presented in
Neruda's production is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras
Completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962
the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two
volumes. Among his works of the last few years can be mentioned Cien
sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife Matilde
Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic
character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth
birthday, Arte de pajᲯs (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y
muerte de JoaquMurieta (1967), Las manos del d/i> (1968), Fin del mundo
(1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.
Geography (poetry), 1972
|El mar y las campanas/The Sea and
the Bells, tr. (poetry), 1973
|Incitacil nixonicidio y alabanza
de la revolucihilena/A Call for the Destruction of Nixon and Praise
for the Chilean Revolution, tr. (poetry), 1974
|El corazmarillo/The Yellow Heart
|Defectos escogidos/Selected Waste
Paper (poetry), 1974
|ElegElegy (poetry), 1974
|Confieso que he vivido. Memorias/Memoirs,
tr. (prose), 1974
|Para nacer he nacido/Passions and
Impressions, tr. (prose), 1978
From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1968-1980,
Editor-in-Charge Tore Fr䮧smyr, Editor Sture All鮬 World Scientific
Publishing Co., Singapore, 1993
autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later
published in the book series
Les Prix Nobel/Nobel
Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum
submitted by the Laureate. To cite this document, always state the source
as shown above.
Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973.
My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.
Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.
Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.
No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.
Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.
Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.
There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.
So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.
Translated, from the Spanish, by Alfred Yankauer
It was passed from
one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.
When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.
How neatly a cat
sleeps with its paws and its posture,
sleeps with its wicked claws,
and with its unfeeling blood,
sleeps with all the rings--
a series of burnt circles--
which have formed the odd geology
of its sand-colored tail.
I should like to sleep like a cat,
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams.
I have seen how the cat asleep
would undulate, how the night
flowed through it like dark water;
and at times, it was going to fall
or possibly plunge into
the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
like a tiger's great-grandfather,
and would leap in the darkness over
rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.
Sleep, sleep cat of the night,
with episcopal ceremony
and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams;
control the obscurity
of our slumbering prowess
with your relentless heart
and the great ruff of your tail.
Translated by Alastair Reid
Submitted by Jen
You've asked me what
the lobster is weaving there with
his golden feet?
I reply, the ocean knows this.
You say, what is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent
bell? What is it waiting for?
I tell you it is waiting for time, like you.
You ask me whom the Macrocystis alga hugs in its arms?
Study, study it, at a certain hour, in a certain sea I know.
You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal,
and I reply by describing
how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies.
You enquire about the kingfisher's feathers,
which tremble in the pure springs of the southern tides?
Or you've found in the cards a new question touching on
the crystal architecture
of the sea anemone, and you'll deal that to me now?
You want to understand the electric nature of the ocean
The armored stalactite that breaks as it walks?
The hook of the angler fish, the music stretched out
in the deep places like a thread in the water?
I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its
is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,
and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the
hard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of light
and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall
from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl.
I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead
of human eyes, dead in those darknesses,
of fingers accustomed to the triangle, longitudes
on the timid globe of an orange.
I walked around as you do, investigating
the endless star,
and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked,
the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind.
Translated by Robert Bly
Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks
All those men were
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
her twin arms were made of white topaz.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
and suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back she swam again
swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
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