Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Neruda is the greatest modern poet to have combined a personal and lyrical mode with a political voice in a way that spoke to and for a popular mass readership. Rooted in Chile, his poetry has a universal human significance marked by the award of the Nobel Prize in 1971.
Pablo Neruda was born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, in the small town of Parral in southern Chile, on July 12, 1904, the son of José del Carmen Reyes and Rosa de Basoalt. His mother, a schoolteacher, died of tuberculosis not long after he was born. Neruda began writing poetry at the local schools but kept it hidden from his schoolmates and his relations, who were mainly agricultural or manual workers, and his father, a tough railroad worker. The family moved to Temuco in 1906, and Neruda grew up in a frontier atmosphere, becoming familiar with the forests and the native Indians who inhabited them. His father remarried, and Neruda grew close to his stepmother, a quiet, unassuming peasant woman named Trinidad Candia Marverde. The headmaster of the local school was the poet Gabriela Mistral, who encouraged the literary talent she saw in the boy. Neruda’s reading at this time was eager and indiscriminate. He grew to be a tall, slim youth and began translating Baudelaire and winning various local poetry prizes.
In 1921, he left high school and went to the teachers’ college in Santiago (the capital of Chile) but much preferred talking about literature in the cafés to studying French. He had submitted his earliest poems for magazine publication when he was only fifteen, signing himself “Pablo Neruda.” His range of literary acquaintances widened, but his early poetry, Crepusculario (1923), remained provincial and sentimental. At twenty, however, he published Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (1924; Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, 1969, 1976) and established his reputation as a love poet.
Neruda worked fanatically, earning money writing articles for newspapers and journals and writing translations. He edited his own magazine, wrote short stories and an immature episodic novel, and began work on a larger sequence, Residencia en la tierra (3 vols., 1933, 1935, 1947; Residence on Earth and Other Poems, 1946, 1973). Yet his love affairs left him unhappy, and he remained poor. It was not until 1927 that Neruda successfully gained an appointment with Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and became the honorary consul to Rangoon, Burma. He was neither a trained diplomat nor an outstanding linguist, but, as a gregarious, charismatic, presentable, and accomplished writer who had a proven ability to move his readers, he fulfilled the requirements of an ambassador for his country.
The sense of political solidarity that Neruda came to affirm was gained through years of isolation and a continuous balancing of powerful emotions of love, with rich, dark, sometimes surreal journeys of the imagination. Personal loneliness and a fond memory of his home were counterpointed in his verse. He traveled to various parts of the world on his first trip to the East and sent articles back to the Santiago daily newspaper La Nación. In Burma he encountered professionally the remnants of ancient cultures and the continuing exploitation of colonial occupation, and his personal anxieties found a counterpart in society at large. He attempted to maintain contact with friends and writers in Chile and was published in Spain, but in Burma he was depressed.
While visiting India to cover a political meeting in Calcutta in 1929, the enormous crowds that he encountered in the subcontinent brought him to greater depths of despair. He continued writing the Residence on Earth poems. In 1930, Neruda became Consul to the Dutch East Indies and married a Dutch woman, Maria Antonieta Haagenar. In 1932, they returned, briefly, to Chile. Though Neruda’s poems were by now being published and republished, they would not bring him a living wage. In 1933, he took up another consular appointment in Buenos Aires and in 1934 yet another in Barcelona. His bureaucratic experience had not made him a happy man, but now things were to change. He moved on to Madrid, where the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca (whom he had met in Buenos Aires) introduced him to a new public. He separated from his first wife and later was happily married to Delia del Carril, with whom he remained until the 1950’s. His great work Residence on Earth was now published, and an international audience was responding to Neruda with vital enthusiasm. Concurrently, Neruda was becoming more thoroughly intellectually politicized, as he was introduced to the social struggles that underlay the Spanish Civil War. García Lorca, who had become a friend of Neruda, was murdered by the Fascists, and Neruda found comradeship with the French left-wing Surrealist writers Louis Aragon and Paul Éluard, and with the Peruvian Cesar Vallejo. He allied himself with the political struggle of the Spanish Republic.
Neruda returned to Chile, and through 1937 and...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
Pablo Neruda was born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in the frontier town of Parral in the southern part of Chile on July 12, 1904. His mother died of tuberculosis a few days after his birth, and Neruda lived with his stepmother and father, a railroad conductor, in a tenement house with two other families. Hard work and an early introduction to literature and to the mysteries of manhood distinguished his first seventeen years. In school, the famous Chilean educator and poet Gabriela Mistral, herself a Nobel Prize winner, introduced the young Neruda to the great nineteenth century Russian novelists. In the fall of his sixteenth year, while he was assisting in the wheat harvest, a woman whom he was later unable to identify first introduced the young man to sex. A wide-ranging, voracious appetite for books and the wonders of love are memories to which Neruda continually returns in his work, as well as to the harsh Chilean landscape and the problems of survival that confronted his countrymen.
His father’s determination that Neruda should have a profession took the young poet to Santiago, where he intended to study French literature at the university. He had learned French and English in Temuco from his neighbors, many of whom were immigrants. His affiliation as contributor to the journal Claridad, with the politically active student group Federación de Estudiantes, and the attractions of life in a large city, where Neruda quickly made friends with many influential people, served to expand his original plans. While living with the widow of a German novelist, Neruda tried repeatedly to gain access to the offices of the Ministry of External Affairs, hoping to obtain a diplomatic post in Europe. More important, he had begun to write his first serious poetry during his evenings alone in a boardinghouse at 513 Maruri Street.
Neruda’s hatred of political oppression became firmly established when the students of a right-wing group attacked the officers of Claridad and the Santiago police freed the attackers and arrested the editors, one of whom died in jail. Thus, after a year and a half in Santiago, Neruda abandoned his university career and dramatically declared himself a poet and political activist, taking the pen name Pablo Neruda from the Czech writer Jan...
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Pablo Neruda was one of the greatest poets of the Spanish American avant-garde, sharing its many poetic heights and political lows. His Stalinism in (bad) verse never completely drowned the powerful poet in him; particularly the erotic strand in his work proved to be quite resilient and accounted for his resurrections. Neruda’s type of poetic Marxism was typical of the Latin American artistic appropriation of leftist revolutionary ideologies in the twentieth century.
He began writing poetry when he was ten years old. In 1920, he adopted the name Pablo Neruda. In 1924, when he was twenty years old, he published his most...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Pablo Neruda (nay-REW-duh) is one of the greatest South American poets of the twentieth century. He was born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in Parral, a small frontier town in Chile, to José del Carmen Reyes, a railway worker, and Rosa Basoalto, who died of tuberculosis shortly after Neruda’s birth. The family eventually moved to Temuco, where Neruda attended school and met, at the age of twelve, the poet Gabriela Mistral, who introduced him to the great classical writers. “In this frontier—or ‘far west’—of my country,” Neruda later wrote, “I was born to life, land, poetry, and rain.” At the age of seventeen, honoring his father’s wish that he be educated for a profession, Neruda left Temuco to study French at...
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IntroductionPablo Neruda is almost as famous for his political activism as he is for his eclectic, electric poetry. A Communist who held several governmental posts in his native Chile, Neruda was a staunch supporter of Radical Party presidential candidate Gabriel Gonzalez Videla and helped elect him to office. When Videla quickly turned against the Communist party, Neruda spoke out harshly against him. Fearing for his family’s safety, Neruda went into hiding for the next year, during which time the Communist party was banned from Chile. He remained in exile for three years and traveled throughout Europe, where he did a great deal of writing. He first became known for erotic poems such as “Tonight I Can Write,” but the masterpiece Canto General captures his range of ideas, concerns, and passions—from history and politics to nature and love.
- Neruda was born Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto. He took his pen name from the Czech author Jan Neruda.
- Although Neruda’s father opposed his writing interests, he persisted and had his first essay published at the age of 13.
- His Veinte Poemas, which includes the acclaimed poem “Tonight I Can Write,” was considered highly controversial because of its explicitly sexual nature. Neruda was only 19 years old when the volume it was published.
- Neruda was invited to speak at the International PEN Conference in 1966 and, despite the fact that he was officially banned from the United States, he was granted a special visa to attend.
- Chilean leader Pinochet tried to outlaw the public from attending Neruda’s funeral, but thousands of people broke curfew and attended anyway. This is considered the first public protest against Chilean dictators.