Poet Pablo Neruda commemorated
The one-hundredth birthday of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda will be
commemorated this year. Dutch poet Jan Baeke views the strength
of Neruda's poetry
12 July 2004 marks the date that the famous Chilean poet and
Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda was born as Ricardo Neftali Reyes
y Basoalto one hundred years ago in the village of Parral in central
Chili. He derived his professional name from the Czech poet Jan
Neruda, the nineteenth-century chronicler of life in Prague.
Neruda became famous not only for his poetry, but also for his
political engagement. As early as the 1930s he openly opposed the
dictatorship in his country, and in 1969 he was even presidential
candidate for the communist party in Chili. He also served as Chilean
consul in France.
Neruda believed he had been called, to be a spokesperson for what
needed to be said. And that was nothing less than the abundance
and wealth of nature and of life, in which man is both a detracting
factor and a representative of the hope for a better world. Neruda's
famous epic poem Canto General expresses this particularly
well. The work is not only a personal history of Chili, but also
a plea for social justice, a requiem for his friends and ancestors,
and a complaint against the United States.
In both Latin America and the Western world, however, he was
above all the beloved poet of immediately appealing and empathetic
poetry. Neruda the man and his work both inspired not only other
poets, but also musicians. Mikis Theodorakis and Peter Schat, for
example, both wrote compositions inspired by the Canto General.
The short novel Burning patience by the Chilean author
Antonio Skármeta, about a simple postman who asks Neruda
to give him the words to win his beloved’s heart, enjoyed
international success in the film version Il Postino.
Neruda died in 1973, just one year after receiving the Nobel