Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
For fear of losing her job as a schoolteacher in provincial Chile, Lucila Godoy Alcayaga used the pseudonym Gabriela Mistral. Her writings include poetry, stories, criticism—political and literary—and numerous prose pieces, many of them political enough to have attracted unwelcome fame. Never having children of her own, she made an international reputation early in her career with elegant poems about children and motherhood. As a teacher, she devoted a significant portion of her life to young students, who included, informally, a teenager named Ricardo Reyes, who would receive, as she did, a Nobel Prize in Literature. His pen name was Pablo Neruda.
Tala was the third of four collections that Mistral published in her lifetime. Tala means “felling,” as in the felling of trees; the title has also been translated as Devastation. The modest volume’s proceeds went to the benefit of orphans displaced by the Spanish Civil War. This gesture was typical of Mistral, considering how strongly her poetry speaks to the nurturing of children. At the same time, her work was by turns emotional, visionary, and possessed by a sensuality that in part may account for her desire to separate her life as a poet from her life as a teacher.
By the time Tala was published, Mistral had seen much more of the world as a diplomat and an education consultant than she had when her first book appeared in 1922. Mistral’s deep...
(The entire section is 1705 words.)
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