50 Years After Neruda's Death

50 Years After Neruda's Death
Fecha de publicación: 
14 September 2023
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50 years ago, on September 23, 1973, the great poet of America, Pablo Neruda, died in Santiago de Chile, poisoned by agents of the newly installed dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose huge and resounding, unequal and comprehensive work would forever alter the lyrical expression of the Spanish language.

Fish from the depths, strange cetacean, monster of the literature in the 20th century, Neruda reached the house of poetry, breaking down the door and twisting the neck of the swan of reigning formalism, artificial and harassing, since in his mid-adolescence he emerged with a singular book, Crepusculario (1923), followed by the very famous Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada(1924), with which he surprised the senses of thousands of readers with his unusual rhythms, unexpected meters and unusual ghosts in its fresh diction.

In his almost 70 years of life, Neruda wrote 45 original books, from whose contents countless bibliographical sections have emerged, from which new booklets, plaquettes and leaflets have emerged, both in Spanish and in other languages.

For example: his book Third Residence (1947) contains independent works like the long poem of Quevedo’s origin Las furias y las penas, the epic cycle España en el corazón, the legendary Cantos a Stalingrad and the thousand times repeated Canto para Bolívar. The same occurs with texts contained in the different sections of Canto general (1950), his "opus magnum", which were first known in the form of books before their definitive inclusion in the large volume, as is the case of Alturas de Macchu Picchu, Qhe despierte el leñador, Canto General de Chile, America no invoco tun ombre en vano and, above all, that fascinating autobiographical narrative in verse entitled El fugitivo, where he sings and tells the adventures of his poetic character «Pablo Neruda » to evade the persecution of President González Videla until his departure into exile. Essential texts of this excellent book have been set to music by legions of composers in America and the world, its most famous version being the opera by the Greek Mikis Theodorakis.

The simple people of Our America have repeated verses from his Veinte poemas de amor for generations, as they have also done with Las Rimas de Bécquer or García Lorca's Romancero Gitano. The most demanding readers and critics are surprised with each new reading by the important verbal vision of Residencia en la Tierra, just as occurs with the immersion in La tierra Baldia de Eliot or  El Anabasis de Saint-John Perse.

And everyone loves, recites and sings the stanzas of autumn love from Los Versos del Capitan and Cien sonetos de amor, the joy of living in the Odas Elementales, Estravagario and La Barcarola, just as we also love, recite and sing the most beautiful poems of Pavese, Kavafis, Pessoa, Eluard, Aragon or Machado. In times of war, and also in times of peace, combatant hearts are shaken by the poetry of "armed love" of Tercera residencia, Canto general, Canción de gesta (the first poetic book written in the world in tribute to the Cuban Revolution) or the Incitement to Nixonicide and praise of the Chilean Revolution. We must not forget that when Che Guevara fell in combat in the mountains of Bolivia, he devotedly kept a copy of Canto general in his backpack.

Throughout his life, the bard from Parral presented the most diverse range of schools, structures, themes and particular cosmoses, as if he were twenty poets included within a literary body called Pablo Neruda: the neoromantic of Veinte poemas de amor, the surrealist of La Tentativa del hombre infinito, the narrative of El Habitante y su Esperanza, the irreverent erotic of El Hondero entusiasta, the desolate and hermetic of La residencias, the metaphysical of Los Tres cantos materiales, the combatant of Canto a las Madres de los milicianos muertos, the epic American of La tierra se llama Juan, the communist traveler of Las uvas y el viento, the jubilant singer of Oda al día feliz, the mischievous child of Estravagario, the anti-imperialist of Canción de Gesta, the lithophagus of Las piedras de Chile, the theatrical chronicler of Joaquín Murieta, the neoclassical of La barcarola, the culinary artist of Comiendo en Hungría, the pacifist of La Espada encendida, and the memoirist of Confieso que he vivido.

When the first centenary of his birth was celebrated, the world was all joy. In July 2004, countless book fairs in cities on three continents were dedicated to Neruda; his poetic work was republished in several languages. Likewise, his life was remembered once again through books, magazines, films, radio and television programs, stagings of his many poems and theatrical performances, especially of El portero, based on the novel by Chilean Antonio Skármeta. And yet, his monotone voice, an unmistakable imitation of the monotonous drizzle of Temuco, is repeated day and night through phonographic recordings in various settings in Latin America.

In addition, countless of his poems were reproduced on gigantic billboards in the Metro stations of several cities on the continent, as well as on the wraps of candies and chocolate bars.

Maybe none poet in no language or geography, has received such an apotheosis of dedication. And surely Neruda will be giving us all a mischievous wink from the transparency where he jumped like a swimmer from heaven on that gloomy September 23, 1973.

The resonance of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his immortality will reach him there, to "the other shore of the sea that has no other shore...".

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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