2 x Pablo Neruda


I recently saw the film “Neruda” which follows poet and politician Pablo Neruda on his escape from Chile in 1948. Interestingly the film choose to use a clearly unreliable and biased narrator in the form of the policeman hunting Neruda. The result was a bit weird but provided some contrast to Neruda’s role as the hero of the story. It allowed me to choose between the heroic tale Neruda might have told himself, the negative story told by his persecutor, or something in-between. It was weird but I mostly liked it.

The film also provided several examples of Neruda’s poetry and I left it with a desire to read some of it for myself. Poetry in translation is of course always a challenge but I did study Spanish many years ago and although I have forgotten almost all of it I selected a bilingual edition of his early collection “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair“. That way I could at least get a glimpse of the original poetry besides the translation. It also forced me to read slowly, alternating between the Spanish and the English translation. Interestingly, I felt that the tone of the poems changed with the language.

I found it easy to like Neruda’s poetry and can see why it is so popular. These are poems that speaks directly on the first read. I particularly enjoyed the striking imagery in many of the poems. “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees” may be one of the most sensual lines I’ve read in a poem.

However, as I kept reading the shadowy nature of the woman/women he described started to bother me. The poems seemed directed more to an idea of a woman than to an actual, living person, and she thus remained a body or an ideal, never an individual. I don’t really mind that in an occasional poem but 21 in a row is too many. I should search for some of his non-love related poetry, I suspect I may enjoy those more. Or perhaps any of his poems written after the age of 19.

I read it in a bilingual translation where the English translation was written by W. S. Merwin.



14 thoughts on “2 x Pablo Neruda

  1. I did not know about that film. Will have to look it up. Interesting perspective on the poems. i think The language change affects the ‘feeling’ of the poem… certainly affects the rhythm… at least for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I belive the English translation stayed very close to the original in many ways but of course there’s no way around the fact that the language melody differs. I found myself reading the translation with a very British accent, much different from the original rhytm.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I don´t know the film, but I will look for it 🙂

    If you are interested in to know about the book, you can to listen it here. I record audiobooks in my free time, and this is the last I have. But that´s only in Spanish, the original language… In the video description you can download audio .mp3 and the book in .pdf too.

    I hope it likes you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I will look into that. I read some of the poems aloud in Spanish to get a better feel for them but I’m pretty sure my pronunciation was terrible, it’s such a long time since I studied Spanish. It will be interesting to hear it done properly.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is! I was a bit disappointed last year when I only managed to read one book by a South American author and that one I didn’t really enjoy. This year I’m finding more South American literature and so far it’s all been good.

      I’m already dreaming of my next classic club list which I currently imagine would include 10 South American authors, 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, 10 authors from the Nordic countries except Sweden and 10 from Europe except UK to address some of the major holes in my reading. We’ll see if that actually happens, I guess I should first finish the one I already started…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been thinking about my next challenge as well, and it’s largely made up of all the books you and others recommend!! I like your ’round the world’ idea, my challenge list is so US/UK heavy. I might start putting together a list using your headings if that’s ok?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, the more the merrier! And I’m very happy for suggestions on what to put on it. I’m thinking that if I wait to start this list until I’m halfway with the one I already got it should work out and until then I can collect promising titles.

      Liked by 1 person

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