Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904–1973) was a Chilean poet and diplomat, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His original name was Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, but he used the pen name Pablo Neruda for over 20 years before adopting it legally in 1946. He is quite probably the most widely read Spanish American poet of all time. His collection, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924), has never been out of print and has sold well over a million copies. Far from being merely a romantic poet, Neruda’s work from the 1940’s on reflects the constant political struggle of the left and the common man and helped to illustrate the socio-historical developments in South America. At the age of 23, he was appointed by the Chilean government as consul to Burma, which led to other diplomatic posts in various East Asian and European countries. In the 1940’s Neruda joined the Communist Party and traveled to Cuba and the Soviet Union. In 1945 he was elected to the Chilean Senate and attacked President Gonzalez Videla in print. After the government was overthrown by right-wing extremists, he was forced into exile in Mexico and Italy until 1953, when he was welcomed home and awarded the Stalin Prize. Although he continued to travel extensively, he forged a permanent home on the Isla Negra, leaving only after President Salvador Allende appointed him as ambassador to France. He died of leukemia in Santiago on September 23, 1973 as the Allende government collapsed under the coup of General Pinochet, who was aided in his efforts by the United States. During his long career, Neruda produced more than forty volumes of poetry, translations, and plays, including Residence On Earth (1933), Selected Poems (1943), Canto General (1950), The Captain’s Verses (1952), Elementary Odes (1956), Extravagario (1958), One Hundred Love Sonnets (1960), Isla Negra (5 volumes, 1966), and The Separate Rose (1974). The poem included here,“United Fruit Co.,” is from Neruda & Vallejo: Selected Poems (Beacon Press, 1971, 1993), translated by Robert Bly.

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