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|Born||Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto|
July 12, 1904
|Died||September 23, 1973 (aged 69)|
|Notable award(s)||Nobel Prize in Literature|
|Born||Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto|
July 12, 1904
|Died||September 23, 1973 (aged 69)|
|Notable award(s)||Nobel Prize in Literature|
Pablo Neruda (Spanish: [ˈpaβ̞lo̞ ne̞ˈɾuð̞a]; July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973) was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after the Czech poet Jan Neruda. In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Neruda became known as a poet while still a teenager. He wrote in a variety of styles including surrealist poems, historical epics, overtly political manifestos, a prose autobiography, and erotically-charged love poems such as the ones in his 1924 collection Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. He often wrote in green ink, which was his personal symbol for desire and hope.
The Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called him "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Harold Bloom included Neruda as one of the 26 writers central to the Western tradition in his book The Western Canon.
On July 15, 1945, at Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil, he read to 100,000 people in honor of the Communist revolutionary leader Luís Carlos Prestes. During his lifetime, Neruda occupied many diplomatic positions and served a term as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. When President González Videla outlawed communism in Chile in 1948, a warrant was issued for Neruda's arrest. Friends hid him for months in the basement of a house in the Chilean port of Valparaíso. Later, Neruda escaped through a mountain pass near Maihue Lake into Argentina. Years later, Neruda was a close advisor to Chile's socialist President Salvador Allende. When Neruda returned to Chile after his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Allende invited him to read at the Estadio Nacional before 70,000 people.
Neruda was hospitalised with cancer at the time of the Chilean coup d'état led by Augusto Pinochet. On 23 September 1973, Neruda died of prostate cancer in his house in 'Isla Negra'. Neruda's death reverberated around the world. Pinochet, backed by elements of the armed forces loyal to him in the military, denied permission to make Neruda's funeral a public event. However, thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew and crowded the streets.
Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born on July 12, 1904, in Parral, Chile, a city in Linares Province in the Maule Region, some 350 km south of Santiago, to José del Carmen Reyes Morales, a railway employee, and Rosa Basoalto, a school teacher who died two months after he was born. Neruda and his father soon moved to Temuco, where his father married Trinidad Candia Marverde, a woman with whom he had a child nine years earlier, a boy named Rodolfo. Neruda also grew up with his half-sister Laura, one of his father's children by another woman. On September 26, 1904, the young Neruda was christened "Neftalí", his late mother's middle name. In the winter of 1914, Neruda composed his first poems.
Neruda's father opposed his son's interest in writing and literature, but Neruda received encouragement from others, including the future Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral, who headed the local girls' school. On July 18, 1917, at the age of thirteen, he published his first work, an essay entitled Entusiasmo y perseverancia (Enthusiasm and Perseverance) in the local daily newspaper, La Mañana, signed Neftalí Reyes. From 1918 to mid-1920 he published numerous poems, such as "Mis ojos" ("My eyes"), and essays in local magazines as Neftalí Reyes. In 1919, he participated in the literary contest Juegos Florales del Maule, where he won third place for his poem "Comunión ideal" or "Nocturno ideal". By mid-1920, when he adopted the pseudonym Pablo Neruda, he was a published author of poetry, prose, and journalism. He is thought to have named himself "Neruda" after the Czech poet Jan Neruda. The young poet's intention in publishing under a pseudonym was to avoid his father's disapproval of his poetry.
In 1921, at the age of 16, Neruda moved to Santiago to study French at the Universidad de Chile with the intention of becoming a teacher, but soon he was devoting all his time to poetry. In 1923, his first volume of verse, Crepusculario (Book of Twilights), was published, followed the next year by Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), a collection of love poems that was controversial for its eroticism, especially considering its author's young age. Both works were critically acclaimed and were translated into many languages. Over the decades, Veinte poemas would sell millions of copies and become Neruda's best-known work, though it did not go to a second edition until 1932. By the age of 20, Neruda had established an international reputation as a poet, but faced poverty. In 1926, he published the collection Tentativa del hombre infinito (The attempt of the infinite man) and the novel El habitante y su esperanza (The inhabitant and his hope). In 1927, out of financial desperation, he took an honorary consulship in Rangoon, then a part of colonial Burma and a place he had never heard of. Later, mired in isolation and loneliness, he worked in Colombo (Ceylon), Batavia (Java), and Singapore. In Java he met and married his first wife, a Dutch bank employee named Maryka Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang. While on diplomatic service, Neruda read large amounts of poetry and experimented with many different poetic forms. He wrote the first two volumes of Residencia en la Tierra, which included many surrealistic poems.
After returning to Chile, Neruda was given diplomatic posts in Buenos Aires and then Barcelona, Spain. He later succeeded Gabriela Mistral as consul in Madrid, where he became the center of a lively literary circle, befriending such writers as Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, and the Peruvian poet César Vallejo. A daughter, Malva Marina Trinidad, was born in Madrid in 1934; she was to be plagued with health problems, especially hydrocephalus, during her short life. During this period, Neruda slowly became estranged from his wife and began a relationship with Delia del Carril (es), an Argentine twenty years his senior.
As Spain became engulfed in civil war, Neruda became intensely politicised for the first time. His experiences of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath moved him away from distinctive, privately focused work in the direction of collective obligation. Neruda became an ardent communist, and remained so for the rest of his life. The radical leftist politics of his literary friends, as well as that of del Carril, were contributing factors, but the most important catalyst was the execution of García Lorca by forces loyal to the Spanish dictator Franco. By means of his speeches and writings, Neruda threw his support behind the Republican side, publishing the collection España en el corazón (Spain in My Heart, 1938). He lost his post as consul due to his political militancy. Neruda's marriage broke down and the couple divorced in 1936. His ex-wife moved to Monte Carlo and then to the Netherlands with their only child, and he would never see either of them again. After leaving his wife, Neruda lived with Delia del Carril in France.
After the 1938 election of President Pedro Aguirre Cerda, whom Neruda supported, the poet was appointed special consul for Spanish emigration in Paris. There he was responsible for what he called "the noblest mission I have ever undertaken": transporting 2,000 Spanish refugees who had been housed by the French in squalid camps to Chile on an old ship called the Winnipeg. Neruda is sometimes charged with selecting only communists for emigration, to the exclusion of others who had fought on the side of the Republic. Others deny these accusations, pointing out that Neruda chose only a few hundred of the refugees personally; the rest were selected by the Service for the Evacuation of Spanish Refugees set up by Juan Negrín, president of the Spanish Republican government in Exile.
Neruda's next diplomatic post was as Consul General in Mexico City, where he spent the years 1940 to 1943. While in Mexico, he married del Carril, and learned that his daughter Malva had died from various health problems, aged eight, in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.
After the failed 1940 assassination attempt against Leon Trotsky, Neruda arranged a Chilean visa for the Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, who was accused of having been one of the conspirators in the assassination. Neruda later said he did it at the request of the Mexican president, Manuel Ávila Camacho. This enabled Siqueiros, then jailed, to leave Mexico for Chile, where he stayed at Neruda's private residence. In exchange for Neruda's assistance, Siqueiros spent over a year painting a mural in a school in Chillán. Neruda's relationship with Siqueiros attracted criticism and Neruda dismissed the allegations that his intent had been to help an assassin as "sensationalist politico-literary harassment". In Mexico, Pablo Neruda met the famous Mexican writer Octavio Paz, with whom he nearly came to blows in 1942.
In 1943, after his return to Chile, Neruda made a tour of Peru, where he visited Machu Picchu. The austere beauty of the Inca citadel later inspired Alturas de Macchu Picchu, a book-length poem in twelve parts which he completed in 1945 and which marked a growing awareness and interest in the ancient civilizations of the Americas, themes he was to explore further in Canto General. In Alturas, Neruda celebrated the achievement of Machu Picchu, but also condemned the slavery which had made it possible. In Canto XII, he called upon the dead of many centuries to be born again and to speak through him. Martín Espada, poet and professor of creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has hailed the work as a masterpiece, declaring that "there is no greater political poem".
Bolstered by his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, Neruda, like many left-leaning intellectuals of his generation, came to admire the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin, partly for the role it played in defeating Nazi Germany and idealist views of theoretical Marxist doctrine. This is echoed in poems such as "Canto a Stalingrado" (1942) and "Nuevo canto de amor a Stalingrado" (1943). In 1953 Neruda was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize. On Stalin's death that same year, Neruda wrote an ode to him, as he also (during World War II) wrote poetry in praise of Fulgencio Batista "Saludo a Batista", ("Salute to Batista") and later to Fidel Castro. His fervent Stalinism eventually drove a wedge between Neruda and longtime friend Octavio Paz who commented that "Neruda became more and more Stalinist, while I became less and less enchanted with Stalin". Their differences came to a head after the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact when they almost came to blows in an argument over Stalin. Although Paz still considered Neruda "The greatest poet of his generation", in an essay on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn he wrote that when he thinks of "Neruda and other famous Stalinist writers and poets, I feel the gooseflesh that I get from reading certain passages of the Inferno. No doubt they began in good faith [...] but insensibly, commitment by commitment, they saw themselves becoming entangled in a mesh of lies, falsehoods, deceits and perjuries, until they lost their souls". Neruda called Lenin the "great genius of this century". His speech of June 5, 1946 gives a tribute to the late Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin, who for Neruda was "man of noble life", "the great constructor of the future", and "a comrade of arms of Lenin and Stalin".
Neruda later came to rue his support of the Soviet leader; after Nikita Khrushchev's famous Secret Speech at the Soviet 20th Party Congress in 1956, which denounced the "cult of personality" that surrounded Stalin and accused him of committing crimes during the Great Purges, Neruda wrote in his memoirs "I had contributed my share to the personality cult," explaining that "in those days, Stalin seemed to us the conqueror who had crushed Hitler's armies". Of a subsequent visit to China in 1957, Neruda would write: "What has estranged me from the Chinese revolutionary process has not been Mao Tse-tung but Mao Tse-tungism." He dubbed this Mao Tse-Stalinism: "the repetition of a cult of a Socialist deity". Despite his disillusionment with Stalin, Neruda never lost his essential faith in communist theory and remained loyal to "the Party". Anxious not to give ammunition to his ideological enemies, he would later refuse publicly to condemn the Soviet repression of dissident writers like Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky, an attitude with which even some of his staunchest admirers disagreed.
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On March 4, 1945 Neruda was elected a Communist party senator for the northern provinces of Antofagasta and Tarapacá in the arid and inhospitable Atacama Desert. He officially joined the Communist Party of Chile four months later. In 1946, Radical Party presidential candidate Gabriel González Videla asked Neruda to act as his campaign manager. González Videla was supported by a coalition of left-wing parties and Neruda fervently campaigned on his behalf. Once in office, however, González Videla turned against the Communist Party and issued the Law of Permanent Defense of the Democracy. The breaking point for Senator Neruda was the violent repression of a Communist-led miners' strike in Lota in October 1947, where striking workers were herded into island military prisons and a concentration camp in the town of Pisagua. Neruda's criticism of González Videla culminated in a dramatic speech in the Chilean senate on January 6, 1948, which became known as "Yo acuso" ("I accuse"), in the course of which he read out the names of the miners and their families who were imprisoned at the concentration camp.
During the late 1960s, Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was asked for his opinion of Pablo Neruda. Borges stated, "I think of him as a very fine poet, a very fine poet. I don't admire him as a man, I think of him as a very mean man." He said that Neruda had not spoken out against Perón because he was afraid to risk his reputation, noting "I was an Argentine poet, he was a Chilean poet, he's on the side of the Communists, I'm against them. So I felt he was behaving very wisely in avoiding a meeting that would have been quite uncomfortable for both of us."
A few weeks later in 1948, finding himself threatened with arrest, Neruda went into hiding and he and his wife were smuggled from house to house hidden by supporters and admirers for the next thirteen months. While in hiding, Senator Neruda was removed from office and in September 1948 the Communist Party was banned altogether under the Ley de Defensa Permanente de la Democracia (Law for the Permanent Defense of Democracy), called by critics the Ley Maldita (Accursed Law), which eliminated over 26,000 people from the electoral registers, thus stripping them of their right to vote. Neruda moved later to Valdivia in southern Chile. From Valdivia he moved to Fundo Huishue a forestry estate in the vicinity of Huishue Lake. Neruda's life underground ended in March 1949 when he fled over the Lilpela Pass on the Andes Mountains to Argentina on horseback. He would dramatically recount his escape from Chile in his Nobel Prize lecture.
Once out of Chile, he spent the next three years in exile. In Buenos Aires, Neruda took advantage of the slight resemblance between him and his friend, the future Nobel Prize-winning novelist and cultural attaché to the Guatemalan embassy, Miguel Ángel Asturias, to travel to Europe using Asturias's passport. Pablo Picasso arranged his entrance into Paris and Neruda made a surprise appearance there to a stunned World Congress of Peace Forces[clarification needed], while the Chilean government denied that the poet could have escaped the country. Neruda spent those three years traveling extensively throughout Europe as well as taking trips to India, China, Sri Lanka and the Soviet Union. His trip to Mexico in late 1949 was lengthened due to a serious bout of phlebitis. A Chilean singer named Matilde Urrutia was hired to care for him and they began an affair that would, years later, culminate in marriage. During his exile, Urrutia would travel from country to country shadowing him and they would arrange meetings whenever they could. Matilde Urrutia was the muse for "Los versos del Capitán", which he later published anonymously in 1952.
While in Mexico, Neruda also published his lengthy epic poem Canto General, a Whitmanesque catalog of the history, geography, and flora and fauna of South America, accompanied by Neruda's observations and experiences. Many of them dealt with his time underground in Chile, which is when he composed much of the poem. In fact, he had carried the manuscript with him on his escape on horseback. A month later, a different edition of five thousand copies was boldly published in Chile by the outlawed Communist Party based on a manuscript Neruda had left behind. In Mexico, he was granted honorary Mexican citizenship. Neruda's 1952 stay in a villa owned by Italian historian Edwin Cerio on the island of Capri was fictionalized in Antonio Skarmeta's 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia (Ardent Patience, later known as El cartero de Neruda, or Neruda's Postman), which inspired the popular film Il Postino ("The Postman", 1994).
By 1952, the González-Videla government was on its last legs, weakened by corruption scandals. The Chilean Socialist Party was in the process of nominating Salvador Allende as its candidate for the September 1952 presidential elections and was keen to have the presence of Neruda, by now Chile's most prominent left-wing literary figure, to support the campaign. Neruda returned to Chile in August of that year and rejoined Delia del Carril, who had travelled ahead of him some months earlier, but the marriage was crumbling. Del Carril eventually learned of his affair with Matilde Urrutia and he sent her back to Chile in 1955. She convinced the Chilean officials to lift his arrest allowing Urrutia and Neruda to go to Capri, Italy. Now united with Urrutia, Neruda would, aside from many foreign trips and a stint as Allende's ambassador to France from 1970 to 1973, spend the rest of his life in Chile.
By this time, Neruda enjoyed worldwide fame as a poet, and his books were being translated into virtually all the major languages of the world. He vigorously denounced the U.S. during the Cuban missile crisis and later in the decade he would likewise repeatedly condemn the U.S. for the Vietnam War. But being one of the most prestigious and outspoken left-wing intellectuals alive, he also attracted opposition from ideological opponents. The Congress for Cultural Freedom, an anti-communist organization covertly established and funded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, adopted Neruda as one of its primary targets and launched a campaign to undermine his reputation, reviving the old claim he had been an accomplice in the attack on Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940. The campaign became more intense when it became known that Neruda was a candidate for the 1964 Nobel Prize, which was eventually awarded to Jean-Paul Sartre.
In 1966, Neruda was invited to attend an International PEN conference in New York City. Officially, he was barred from entering the U.S. because he was a communist, but the conference organizer, playwright Arthur Miller, eventually prevailed upon the Johnson Administration to grant Neruda a visa. Neruda gave readings to packed halls, and even recorded some poems for the Library of Congress. Miller later opined that Neruda's adherence to his communist ideals of the 1930s was a result of his protracted exclusion from "bourgeois society". Due to the presence of many Eastern Bloc writers, Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes later wrote that the PEN conference marked a "beginning of the end" of the Cold War.
Upon Neruda's return to Chile, he stopped in Peru, where he gave readings to enthusiastic crowds in Lima and Arequipa and was received by President Fernando Belaúnde Terry. However, this visit also prompted an unpleasant backlash; because the Peruvian government had come out against the government of Fidel Castro in Cuba, July 1966 saw more than one hundred Cuban intellectuals retaliate against the poet by signing a letter that charged Neruda with colluding with the enemy, calling him an example of the "tepid, pro-Yankee revisionism" then prevalent in Latin America. The affair was particularly painful for Neruda because of his previous outspoken support for the Cuban revolution, and he never visited the island again, even after receiving an invitation in 1968.
After the death of Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967, Neruda wrote several articles regretting the loss of a "great hero". At the same time, he told his friend Aida Figueroa not to cry for Che, but for Luis Emilio Recabarren, the father of the Chilean communist movement, who preached a pacifist revolution over Che's violent ways.
In 1970, Neruda was nominated as a candidate for the Chilean presidency, but ended up giving his support to Salvador Allende, who later won the election and was inaugurated in 1970 as the first democratically elected socialist head of state. Shortly thereafter, Allende appointed Neruda the Chilean ambassador to France, lasting from 1970–1972; his final diplomatic posting. During his stint in Paris, Neruda helped to renegotiate the external debt of Chile, billions owed to European and American banks, but within months of his arrival in Paris his health began to deteriorate. Neruda returned to Chile two and half years later due to his failing health.
In 1971, Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize, a decision that did not come easily because some of the committee members had not forgotten Neruda's past praise of Stalinist dictatorship. But his Swedish translator, Artur Lundkvist, did his best to ensure the Chilean received the prize. "A poet," Neruda stated in his Stockholm speech of acceptance of the Nobel Prize, "is at the same time a force for solidarity and for solitude." The following year Neruda was awarded the prestigious Golden Wreath Award at the Struga Poetry Evenings.
As the coup d'état of 1973 unfolded, Neruda, then diagnosed with prostate cancer, was devastated by the mounting attacks on the Allende government. The military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet on September 11 saw Neruda's hopes for a Marxist Chile destroyed. Shortly thereafter, during a search of the house and grounds at Isla Negra by Chilean armed forces at which Neruda was present, the poet famously remarked: "Look around—there's only one thing of danger for you here—poetry." 
Neruda died of heart failure on the evening of September 23, 1973, at Santiago's Santa María Clinic; The funeral took place amidst a massive police presence, and mourners took advantage of the occasion to protest against the new regime, established just a couple of weeks before. Neruda's house was broken into and his papers and books taken or destroyed.
In 1974 his Memoirs appeared under the title I Confess I Have Lived, updated to the last days of the poet's life, and including a final segment describing the death of Salvador Allende during the storming of the Moneda Palace by Pinochet and other generals – occurring only twelve days before Neruda died. Matilde Urrutia subsequently compiled and edited for publication the memoirs and possibly his final poem "Right Comrade, It's the Hour of the Garden". These and other activities brought her into conflict with Pinochet's government, which continually sought to curtail Neruda's influence on the Chilean collective consciousness. Urrutia's own memoir, My Life with Pablo Neruda, was published posthumously in 1986. Manuel Araya, his Communist Party-appointed chauffeur published a book about Neruda's final days in 2012.
In June 2011, a Chilean judge ordered that an investigation be launched, following suggestions that Neruda had been killed by the Pinochet regime for his pro-Allende stance and political views. Neruda's driver, Manuel Araya, stated that doctors administered poison as the poet was preparing to go into exile. In December 2011 Chile's Communist Party asked Chilean Judge Mario Carroza to order the exhumation of the remains of the poet. Carroza has been conducting probes into hundreds of deaths allegedly connected to abuses of Pinochet's regime from 1973 to 1990. Carroza's inquiry during 2011–12 uncovered enough evidence to order the exhumation in April 2013. Eduardo Contreras, a Chilean lawyer, is leading the push for a full investigation. He commented: "We have world-class labs from India, Switzerland, Germany, the US, Sweden, they have all offered to do the lab work for free." The Pablo Neruda Foundation has fought the exhumation.
In June 2013 a court order was issued to find the man that prosecutors allege poisoned Neruda. Police are investigating former CIA agent Michael Townley, who is facing trial for the killings of General Carlos Prats (Buenos Aires, 1974), and ex Chancellor Orlando Letelier (Washington, 1976).
Test results were released on 8 November 2013 of the seven-month investigation by a 15 member forensic team. Patricio Bustos, the head of Chile's medical legal service, stated "No relevant chemical substances have been found that could be linked to Mr. Neruda's death".
Neruda owned three houses in Chile; today they are all open to the public as museums: La Chascona in Santiago, La Sebastiana in Valparaíso, and Casa de Isla Negra in Isla Negra, where he and Matilde Urrutia are buried. A bust of Neruda stands on the south side of the Organization of American States building in Washington, D.C.
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