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Essential For Any Lover of Neruda
on April 29, 2004
I admit to being a "Neruda junkie." I read his poetry daily. In fact, I read everything about Pablo Neruda I can find. Although I can read and speak Spanish fluently, I was so happy to find this comprehensive volume of Neruda's poetry in English.
Although Neruda was heavily influenced by both Rimbaud and Baudelaire, his style is really all his own. This book lets us see how Neruda changed and experimented over the years and also how the themes of melancholia and sensual, romantic love stayed with him throughout his life, though they were translated into his poetry in different ways, depending on the period one is studying.
Neruda began his career early in his life, writing sensual, erotic poems the public in Chile loved. The volume that "launched" his career, "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair," can be found in this book and it is, even today, Neruda's bestselling volume of poetry worldwide. When Neruda was sent to Asia, however, his style changed and became more solitary, more meditative and Neruda, who felt very isolated in Asia, has translated this isolation well in the volume, "Residence on Earth."
In 1934, Neruda left Asia for Spain where he was much happier. His happiness was short-lived, however, because the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 and Neruda lost one of his best friends, Federico Garcia Lorca during this time period.
Back in Chile, Neruda decided to use his talent to further his political causes and his style became more and more simple, as it was directed to the masses rather than to the literary elite. An anarchist, Neruda became an ardent Communist, something that, in 1948, caused him to flee Chile for Argentina.
This book contains Neruda's "Canto general," a historical epic of Latin America. I don't particularly care for this long poem, but most experts consider it one of Neruda's best and the book would certainly have been incomplete without it. Any serious lover of Neruda's work should definitely familiarize himself with "Canto general." Whether one likes it or not, it is extremely important.
In 1950, Neruda returned to Chile and, instead of returning to his sensual love poetry, he wrote poems about the most ordinary things. His simple style, which encompasses ordinary ideas and themes, was very popular in Chile. Personally, it's some of my least favorite of Neruda's work.
The autumn of Neruda's life was filled with productivity and he produced much love poetry, almost all of it inspired by his third wife, Matilde Urrutia. The poems written during this period are found in the books, "The Captain's Verses," "One Hundred Love Sonnets," and "Barcarole." These volumes contain some of Neruda's most beautiful love poetry and showcase a mature, shared love rather than the infatuation of youth.
Although most people will always associate Neruda with love poetry (he, himself, considered himself first and foremost a "love poet"), this volume, THE POETRY OF PABLO NERUDA, shows us that there was a dark and violent side to Neruda's nature as well as a sensual one and that his life's work encompasses many styles and many themes.
As large as this book is, it doesn't include all of Neruda's work. He was extremely prolific. It does, however, contain Neruda's best poems and a wonderful cross-section of his work through the years. The editor, Ilan Stavans, has sometimes included more than one translation of a single work, and many of the poems can be found in the original Spanish as well as in English translation.
THE POETRY OF PABLO NERUDA is a book for true lovers of Neruda's poetry. It is a book they really can't afford to be without.