Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda is a well-known Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and was regarded by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Colombian novelist, as the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.

Pablo Neruda’s legal name is Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalta. He was born on July 12, 1904 in Parral, Chile. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father was a railway employee.

Neftali based his pen name after the famous Czech poet, Jan Neruda.

A Poet

Pablo Neruda started as a poet when he was still a teenager and was known to write his poems in green ink which symbolizes his desires and hope. He made his first poems in the winter of 1914. His style of writing resulted in the making of surrealist poems, overtly political manifestos, historical epics, a prose autobiography as well as erotically-charged love poems which were included in his 1924 collection of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. He completed this compilation of romantic poems when he was only 19 years old. The poems have an erotic theme, making them controversial since he made them when he was just a teenager. These poems were his best works and sold more than a million copies. The English translation of this erotic poem collection was provided by W.S. Merwin who is also a poet.

A Politician

Pablo Neruda also spent his life mostly as a politician and served in many diplomatic positions over his lifetime.

He served for one term as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. He was also nearly arrested in 1948 when then Chilean president Gonzalez Videla banned communism in Chile. He spared jail time after his friends hid him for several months in the basement of a house in Valparaiso, Chile. He finally escaped into Argentina through a mountain pass. He continued his political career as a close advisor to President Salvador Allende who was a socialist. Allende allowed him to provide a speech in front of 70,000 people in the Estadio Nacional after he received his Noble Peace prize.

Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda, 1971 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

Death from Cancer

Pablo Neruda was diagnosed with cancer and was hospitalized simultaneously with the Chilean coup d’etat staged by Augusto Pinoche in 1973.

On September 23, 1973, Pablo Neruda died of prostate cancer in his Isla Negra home. His death saddened the whole world but his funeral was made controversial since Pinochet together with his loyal armed forces prevented a public funeral for Pablo Neruda. The curfew imposed by Pinochet was disregarded by the Chilean citizens who assembled on the streets to mourn for the death of the greatest poet of Chile.

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