Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Pablo Neruda succumbed to cancer in his sixty-ninth year, he left behind nine unpublished manuscripts: one prose memoir and eight collections of poetry. He had already earned world recognition as one of the most important and prolific poets of his generation. One of the works that had brought him recognition was Canto general (general song), which appeared almost exactly at the midpoint of his career. His poetic career spanned about five decades. Canto general is a work of immense scope and poetic ambition, and one that has been accomplished by few poets of any time or place.
The collection is divided into fifteen sections, each containing from a dozen to more than forty individual poems. The sheer immensity of the work may be intimidating to the uninitiated, but it is a fine place for readers new to Neruda to become acquainted with his work. It provides a compendium of the poet’s wide range of interests and gathers in one volume the forms he regularly explored during periods throughout his career. Neruda’s passionate interests in history, politics, and nature, and his stunning ability to show the sublime within the mundane are all present in Canto general in full working order.
Neruda’s emotional and spiritual history and his evolution as a poetic thinker become entwined with the natural history and political evolution of the southern half of the American continent. “A Lamp on Earth,” the opening...
(The entire section is 1694 words.)
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