Pablo Neruda’s Memoirs have, if not a clear-cut theme, at least an unmistakable guiding principle: The book is an account of a poet’s life. When Neruda falls in love, he is a poet in love. When he becomes politically engaged, he is a politically engaged poet. He believes in the fraternity of poets; throughout the book, he recounts with relish the endless hours of talking, drinking, and carousing with his fellow poets. Toward the end of chapter 4, “Luminous Solitude,” Neruda devotes precisely one paragraph to his first marriage. It is 1930, and Neruda is Chilean consul in Batavia (now Djakarta, Indonesia). He weds Maria Antonieta Hagenaar, a tall, gentle young woman of a mixed Dutch and Malay background. He reports, significantly, that she knew nothing of the world of arts and letters. Chapter 5, “Spain in My Heart,” is filled with anecdotes of Neruda’s association with Federico Garcia Lorca and other Spanish poets. The wife is a phantom presence, or no presence at all. Even Neruda’s long diplomatic career was basically an adjunct to his poetry. In his youth, a minor diplomatic post was considered a suitable sinecure for a rising young Latin-American poet. Neruda states that the poet’s appearance should match his singular calling: He should always dress in black.
The origins of Neruda’s two great passions, poetry and the struggle of the proletariat, are not directly addressed in Memoirs. Probably it is unrealistic and...
(The entire section is 1195 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Memoirs Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!