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Pablo Neruda has been hailed as the greatest poet of the 20th century & was a Nobel laureat. In these memoirs he also recounts his distinguished career as a diplomat & politician, during which he came to know iconic figures including Gandhi, Che Guevara, & Mao Tse Tung.


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Pablo Neruda has been hailed as the greatest poet of the 20th century & was a Nobel laureat. In these memoirs he also recounts his distinguished career as a diplomat & politician, during which he came to know iconic figures including Gandhi, Che Guevara, & Mao Tse Tung.

30 review for Memoirs

  1. 5 out of 5

    William2

    Autobiography, yes, but big history, too, for Neruda was a sincere communist who met Mao, Ghandi and was fêted in the U.S.S.R. This poet was consequential; his poems frightened rightest despots. He was jailed by these hysterical non-communists, who at times worked with the U.S. and Chilean fascists. Early on there are amusing youthful exploits among his Chilean college friends. The tale of his mongoose’s encounter with a viper during a diplomatic mission to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is hilarious. The b Autobiography, yes, but big history, too, for Neruda was a sincere communist who met Mao, Ghandi and was fêted in the U.S.S.R. This poet was consequential; his poems frightened rightest despots. He was jailed by these hysterical non-communists, who at times worked with the U.S. and Chilean fascists. Early on there are amusing youthful exploits among his Chilean college friends. The tale of his mongoose’s encounter with a viper during a diplomatic mission to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is hilarious. The book is compressed and very fast-paced. His life was enormously eventful. In Bueno Aries he meets Federico García Lorca, in Madrid the goatherd and poetic genius Miguel Hernández and Ramón Gómez de la Serna among others. The sections on the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) mesh nicely with my readings, particularly Hugh Thomas’s exhaustive history of the conflict, George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and Robert Capa’s Heart of Spain. I have the selected poems here, The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, which is 1,000 pages long. A true “collected” might easily run to 2,500 pages, which strikes me as astonishing given the output of most poets. My favorite chapter here, among many excellent chapters, is “Poetry Is an Occupation,” for in it Neruda reveals much about his processes, intentions, influences, critics and literary friends, among them Paul Eluard, Pierre Reverdy, György Somlyó, Salvatore Quasimodo, César Vallejo, and fellow Chilean and Nobelist, Gabriela Mistral. The final pages here were written three days after the CIA-funded assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende, and eleven days before PN’s own death, at this writing still under investigation by an international team of forensic experts. (Please Google it.) “I got used to riding on horseback. My world expanded upward and outward along the towering mud trails, over roads with sudden curves. I encountered the tangled vegetation, the silence or the sounds of wild birds, the sudden outburst of a flowering tree dressed in scarlet robes like a gigantic archbishop of the mountains.... Or from time to time, when least expected, the copihue bell-flower, wild, untamable, indestructible, dangling from the thickets like a drop of fresh blood. Slowly I got used to the horse, the saddle, the stiff, complicated riding gear, the cruel spurs jangling at my heels. Along endless beaches or thicketed hills, a communion was started between my spirit— that is, my poetry— and the loneliest land in the world. That was many years ago, but that communion, that revelation, that pact with the wilderness, is still a part of my life.” (p. 18) “Shyness is a kink in the soul, a special category, a dimension that opens out into solitude. Moreover, it is an inherent suffering, as if we had two epidermises and the one underneath rebelled and shrank back from life. Of the things that make up a man, this quality, this damaging thing, is a part of the alloy that lays the foundation, in the long run, for the perpetuity of the self.” (p. 34) “What a great language I have, it’s a fine language we inherited from the fierce conquistadors . . . They strode over the giant cordilleras, over the rugged Americas, hunting for potatoes, sausages, beans, black tobacco, gold, corn, fried eggs, with a voracious appetite not found in the world since then . . . They swallowed up everything, religions, pyramids, tribes, idolotries just like the ones they brought along in their huge sacks . . . Wherever they went, they razed our land . . . But words fell like pebbles out of the boots of the barbarians, out of their beards, their helmets, their horseshoes, luminous words that were left glittering here . . . our language. We came up losers . . . We came up winners . . . The carried off the gold and left us the gold . . . They left us the words.” (p. 54) “Federico García Lorca had a premonition of his death. Once, shortly after returning from a theatrical tour, he called me up and told me about the strange incident. He had arrived with the La Barraca troupe at some out-of-the-way village in Castile and camped on the edge of town. Overtired because of the pressures on the trip, Federico could not sleep. He got up at dawn and went out to wander around alone. . . . He had stopped at the gate of an old estate, the entrance to the immense park of a feudal manor. Its state of abandonment, the hour, and the cold made the solitude even more penetrating. Suddenly Federico felt oppressed as if by something about to happen. . . . A tiny lamb came out to browse in the weeds among the ruins, appearing like an angel out of the mist, out of nowhere, to turn solitude into something human . . . . The poet no longer felt alone. Suddenly a heard of swine also came into the area. . . . Then Federico witnessed a bloodcurdling scene: the swine fell on the lamb and, to the great horror of poet, tore it to pieces and devoured it. . . . Three months before the Civil War, when he told me this chilling story, Federico was still haunted by the horror of it. Later on I saw, more and more clearly, that the incident had been a vision of his own death, the premonition of his incredible tragedy.” (p. 123) “Curzio Malaparte. . . stated it well in his article, ‘I am not a Communist, but if I were a Chilean poet, I would be one, like Pablo Neruda. You have to take sides here, with the Cadillacs or with the people who have no schooling or shoes.’ These people without schooling or shoes elected me senator on March 4, 1945. I shall always cherish with pride the fact that thousands of people in Chile’s most inhospitable region, the great mining region of copper and nitrate, gave me their vote. Walking over the pampa was laborious and rough. It hasn’t rained for half a century there, and the desert has done its work on the faces of the miners. They are men with scorched features; their solitude and the neglect they are consigned to has been fixed in the dark intensity of their eyes. Going from the desert up to the mountains, entering any needy home, getting to know the inhuman labor these people do, and feeling that the hopes of isolated and sunken men have been entrusted to you, is not a light responsibility.” (p. 166) “Ilya Ehrenburg, who was reading and translating my poems [into Russian], scolded me: too much root, too many roots in your poems. Why so many? It’s true. The frontier regions sank their roots into my poetry and these roots have never been able to wrench themselves out. My life is a long pilgrimage that is always turning on itself, always returning to the woods in the south, to the forest lost in me. There the huge trees were sometimes felled by their seven-hundred years of powerful life, uprooted by storms, blighted by the snow, or destroyed by fire. I have heard titanic trees crashing deep in the forest: the oak tree plunging down with the sound of a muffled cataclysm, as if pounding with a giant hand on the earth’s doors, asking for burial. But the roots are left out in the open, exposed to their enemy, time, to the dampness, to the lichens, to one destruction after another. Nothing more beautiful than those huge, open hands, wounded or burned, that tell us, when we come across them on a forest path, the secret of the buried tree, the mystery that nourished the leaves, the deep reaching muscles of the vegetable kingdom. Tragic and shaggy, they show us a new beauty: they are sculptures molded by the depths of the earth: nature’s secret masterpieces.” (p. 191) “What first impressed me in the U.S.S.R. was the feeling of immensity it gives, of unity within that vast country’s population, the movements of the birches on the plains, the huge forest so miraculously unspoiled, the great rivers, the horses running like waves across the wheat fields. I loved the Soviet land at first sight, and realized that not only does it offer a moral lesson for every corner of the globe, a way of comparing possibilities, an ever increasing progress in working together and sharing, but I sense, too, that an extraordinary flight would begin from this land of steppes, which preserved so much natural purity. The entire human race knows that a colossal truth is being worked out there, and the whole world waits eagerly to see what will happen. Some wait in terror, others simply wait, still others believe they can see what is coming.” (p. 194) “All this persecution came to a head one morning in Naples . . . The police came to my hotel. Using an alleged error in my passport as a pretext, they asked me to accompany them to the prefecture. There they offered me an espresso and informed me that I must leave Italian soil that same day . . . At the station in Rome . . . I was able to make out an enormous crowd from my window. I heard shouting. I saw great commotion and confusion. Armfuls of flowers advanced toward the train, raised over a river of heads. ‘Pablo! Pablo!’ . . . When I went down the car’s steps, elegantly guarded, I became the center of a swirling melee. In a matter of seconds, men and women writers, newsmen, deputies, perhaps close to a thousand persons, snatched me away from the hands of the police. During these dramatic moments I made out a few famous faces. Alberto Moravia and his wife, Elsa Morante, like him a novelist. The eminent painter Renato Guttuso. Other poets. Other painters. Carlo Levi, the celebrated author of Christ Stopped at Eboli, was holding out a bouquet of roses. In the midst of all this, flowers were spilling to the ground, hats and umbrellas flew, fist blows sounded like explosions. The police were getting the worst of it, and I was once more recovered by my friends. During the scuffle I had a glimpse of gentle Elsa Morante striking a policeman on the head with a silk parasol. Suddenly the luggage hand trucks were going by and I saw one of the porters, a corpulent facchino, bring a club down on a policeman‘s back. These were the Roman people backing me up . . . The crowd was shouting: ‘Neruda stays in Rome. Neruda is not leaving Italy! Let the poet stay! Let the Chilean stay! . . .’” (p. 213) “In Stalin’s case, I have contributed my share to the personality cult. But in those days Stalin had seemed to us the conqueror who had crushed Hitler‘s armies, the savior of all humanity. The deterioration of his character was a mysterious process, still an enigma for many of us. And now, here in plain sight, in the vast expanse of the new China’s land and skies [Neruda was on the Yangtze], once more a man was turning into a myth right before my eyes. A myth destined to lord it over the revolutionary conscience, to put in one man’s grip the creation of a world that must belong to all. I could not swallow that bitter pill a second time.” (p. 237)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jareed

    "Perhaps I didn't live just in myself, perhaps I lived the lives of others…My life is a life put together from all those lives: the lives of the poet." (1) Pablo Neruda Pablo Neruda, born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was a Nobel Prize for Literature laureate (1971), a poet whose verses breathe life themselves, whose life, was poetry itself. Gabriel Garcia Marquez fearlessly called him the "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Che Guevara ,in his diaries revered Neruda "Perhaps I didn't live just in myself, perhaps I lived the lives of others…My life is a life put together from all those lives: the lives of the poet." (1) Pablo Neruda Pablo Neruda, born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was a Nobel Prize for Literature laureate (1971), a poet whose verses breathe life themselves, whose life, was poetry itself. Gabriel Garcia Marquez fearlessly called him the "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Che Guevara ,in his diaries revered Neruda as his favorite writer, and carried only two books with him till his death, one of which was Neruda’s Cantos General (the reason of which will be readily apparent later on). He was not just a poet; he was THE poet of the people, of the oppressed, the unheard, and the forgotten. Primera Vida: A Child of the Forest "Perhaps love and nature were, very early on, the source of my poems." (19) Temuco Chile, who wouldn't fall in love with that? Neruda aptly starts his Memoirs by writing where it all began, in the then frontier lands of Temuco, Chile, emblazoned by nature’s ardor. Nature made me euphoric (7), Neruda writes and indeed, nature did become an indispensable aspect throughout his poems as the reader would conspicuously experience throughout his works. He characterized his childhood with modesty and austerity when referring to their economic and fiscal means, and yet one cannot help but feel that he was nothing but rich beyond measure as he reminisced his childhood with picturesque landscapes, forest adventures, and long walks defined by an indescribable affinity with nature. I have come out of that landscape, that mud, that silence, to roam, to go singing through the world (7). And sing he did. Segunda Vida: A Barred Poet, Militant Student, and Gabriela Mistral’s Touch. A later photo showing Neruda with Mistral, they also both ended up as diplomats As expected, Neruda’s father did not welcome the fact that his son wanted to become a poet amidst their challenging living conditions. The encouragement he failed to find in his father, Neruda found abounding with Gabriela Mistral(later to be a fellow Nobel Laureate (1945)), who introduced him to Russian classics. Neruda was undaunted, he continued to take poetry as a profession and went to a university at Santiago, Chile. While in the university he got acquainted with hunger and intermittent homelessness, his poems were all that kept him defiantly warm and firm. Tercera Vida: A Diplomatic Affair"I learned what true loneliness was, in those days and years” (49). Neruda visits the USSR Neruda opted to accept an appointment as a consul after leaving the university and was first assigned in Rangoon, that further lead him to Colombo, Batavia, Singapore, Paris, and Mexico to name a few, the memoirs would suggest that Neruda welcomed the appointment, but other accounts tells that it was dire financial need that compelled him to accept the said appointment. Whichever the case was, his consulship had a very profound effect on him, meeting a vast number of notable personas, chief of this was Loneliness. Solitude, in this case, was not a formula for building up a writing mood but something as hard as a prison wall; you could smash your head against the wall and nobody came, no matter how you screamed or wept. (92) Unlike most poets, loneliness was a revolting concept in literary endeavors to someone like Neruda who celebrated love and life. And to combat this loneliness he wrote, “I went so deep into the soul and the life of the people" (view spoiler)[…i fell and lost my heart to a native girl (hide spoiler)] (90). He sought to immerse himself with the land and the people wherever he was based, this aside from meeting personalities like Nehru, Miguel Asturias (awarded the Nobel in 1967), Picasso, Joliot-Curie, Federico Lorca, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara (later on). "The poet cannot be afraid of the people. Life seemed to be handing me a warning and teaching me a lesson I would never forget: the lesson of hidden honor, of fraternity we know nothing about, of beauty that blossoms in the dark."(89) Indeed this philosophy modeled by this consulship will lead him to directly take part in defending the Spanish Republic through propagandas and more essentially, his poems (an aspect which will be fully utilized in Chile’s very own struggles). Cuarta Vida: The People’s Poet, A Senator, and a Communist on the Run "…politics became part of my poetry and my life. In my poems I could not shut the door to the street, just as I could not shut the door to love, life, joy, or sadness in my young poet's heart."(55) Neruda embracing Allende, also from the Left Wing, whom he supported for the Presidency With his direct participation in the Spanish Civil war, he was removed from his post and returned to Chile. He entered the political scene and was elected a Senator in 1945, and later officially joined the Chilean Communist Party. The President elect of the same term hailed from the same Communist party but turned on against the Party and he banned the PArty altogether in 1948, with Neruda being removed in office, he surreptitiously escaped Chile and lived in exile for the next three years. Throughout those unwelcoming times, Neruda’s greatest weapon was his poems. “At hundreds of rallies, in places remote from one another, I heard the same request: to read my poems. They were often asked for by title.” (170) His ardent feeling towards the people and his poetry at this point cannot be denied, and it was riveting. (view spoiler)[ “I have lived for my poetry and my poetry has nourished everything I have striven for. And if I have received many awards, awards fleeting as butterflies, fragile as pollen, I have attained a greater prize, one that some people may deride but not many can attain… That is my reward, not the books and the poems that have been translated, or the books written to explicate or to dissect my words. My reward is the momentous occasion when, from the depths of the Lora coal mine, a man came up out of the tunnel into the full sunlight on the fiery nitrate field, as if rising out of hell, his face disfigured by his terrible work, his eyes inflamed by the dust, and stretching his rough hand out to me, a hand whose calluses and lines trace the map of the pampas, he said to me, his eyes shining: "I have known you for a long time, my brother." That is the laurel crown for my poetry, that opening in the bleak pampa from which a worker emerges who has been told often by the wind and the night and the stars of Chile: "You're not alone; there's a poet whose thoughts are with you in your suffering." (179) (hide spoiler)] Neruda returned to Chile in the next presidential elections, at the same time abandoning his nomination to run for the Presidency and instead supported Allende’s run, who will later win. Quinta Vida: A Lover’s Life "Perhaps love and nature were, very early on, the source of my poems." (19) Neruda with Mathilde Love completes the vital elements that comprise Neruda’s impeccably conceived poems. And of course, to write poetry as good as he did, inspiration must have come by the lot. Neruda had the penchant for overlapping love affairs characterized by sudden departures and intermittent unconventional sexual encounters. (view spoiler)[ an encounter even, In my modest opinion, clearly bordered rape by any standards already. The incident concerned a househelp of the lowest caste. Neruda wrote, “One morning, I decided to go all the way. I got a strong grip on her wrist and stared into her eyes. There was no language I could talk with her. Unsmiling, she let herself be led away and was soon naked in my bed. Her waist, so very slim, her full hips, the brimming cups of her breasts made her like one of the thou¬sand-year-old sculptures from the south of India. It was the com¬ing together of a man and a statue. She kept her eyes wide open all the while, completely unresponsive. She was right to despise me. The experience was never repeated. (99) (hide spoiler)] Neruda had three wives and each have been the subject of a set or collection of poems. Matilde Urrutia, however was the inspiration for the 100 Love Sonnets. -- Neruda died twelve days after Allende was killed (1973) by Pinochet’s attack of the presidential palace. As it stands, Neruda’s cause of death was by prostate cancer, although later claims emerged that he was poisoned for his Pro-Allende stances enough to call for an exhumation of the body, the same act is claimed to have been ordered by the Pinochet Regime. The body was exhumed in 2013 (the Neruda Foundation fought against exhuming the body) and test results revealed in November 2013 negated any existence of chemical compounds. The great poet succumbed to cancer. ____________________________________ Originally entitled I Confess I Have Lived, Memoirs was first published in 1974, under the editorial ambit of Mathilde Urrutia. Memoirs, is essentially a poem in prose by the manner Neruda wrote this. His lyrical style was unrelenting. Take for example this excerpt on one instance when an earthquake hit, “…Sometimes it all begins with a vague stirring, and those who are sleeping wake up. Sleeping fitfully, the soul reaches down to pro¬found roots, to their very depth under the earth. It has always wanted to know it. And knows it now. And then, during the great tremor, there is nowhere to run, because the gods have gone away, the vainglorious churches have been ground up into heaps of rubble.(59)” Or his reaction upon seeing the sea the first time, “The first time I stood before the sea, I was overwhelmed. The great ocean unleashed its fury there between two big hills, Huilque and Maule. It wasn't just the immense snow-crested swells, rising many meters above our heads, but the loud pound¬ing of a gigantic heart, the heartbeat of the universe.(25)” This is the general tone by which Memoirs was written so those who relish and live by Neruda’s verses are never truly alienated in this prosaic work. The entries intermittently jump through pivotal years, but not one chapter failed to contain people and individuals that helped, changed and loved Neruda however monumental or minuscule that was, and so as it goes, he mentions unpublished poets, forgotten names and acquaintances to people who rocked the very foundations of life. Humorous instances are also contained in this work, how he reacted to the alleged awarding of the Nobel, to his pet mongoose, to a hysterically paranoid woman, and the reason why he choose the pen name Neruda. Along with this, Neruda nonchalantly tells of his sexual encounters, of which, of course, there were numerous. If you opened the spoiler above, you will understand my reservation to this seminal Author exist, perhaps, in that instance only. After reading his Memoirs, what came across is that Neruda is a poet through and through. It’s interesting to read that whatever he was subjected to, in whatever kind of instance or predicament he found himself in, the poet never left. He tells us of the various literary stimuli that lead to a specific work. To Neruda, his poems were not only both his sword and shield, it too was his soul. “The poet who is not a realist is dead. And the poet who is only a realist is also dead. The poet who is only irrational will only be understood by himself and his beloved, and this is very sad. The poet who is all reason will even be understood by jackasses, and this is also terribly sad. There are no hard and fast rules, there are no ingredients prescribed by God or the Devil, but these two very important gentlemen wage a steady battle in the realm of poetry, and in this battle first one wins and then the other, but poetry itself cannot be defeated.(265)” _______________________ *Neruda is said to have written only in green ink, probably a color closest to the forest, other yet say that this was his personal symbol for desire and hope. I have reviewed other works by Pablo Neruda The Book of Questions (4 Stars) Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (3 Stars) This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates This review, along with my other reviews, has been cross-posted at imbookedindefinitely

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kshitiz Goliya

    I can only give a warning; after reading this book you will be forced to think that you have not really lived until now, that you were sleepwalking while the treasure of world lay open in front of you. He travelled to nearly every corner of the world and amalgamated himself with it. He discovered beauty and wealth in the mountain of andes and the arms of a Tamil untouchable in Ceylon. He fought for his poor countrymen, for peace, for humanism. While sometimes five star hotels greeted him, someti I can only give a warning; after reading this book you will be forced to think that you have not really lived until now, that you were sleepwalking while the treasure of world lay open in front of you. He travelled to nearly every corner of the world and amalgamated himself with it. He discovered beauty and wealth in the mountain of andes and the arms of a Tamil untouchable in Ceylon. He fought for his poor countrymen, for peace, for humanism. While sometimes five star hotels greeted him, sometimes he found himself penniless with torn clothes clinging to nothing but his poetry for comfort. Neruda plays with word as a child with pebbles. He can leave you spell bound paragraph by paragraph, wanting for more. He talks to nature, to revolutions, to his beloved countrymen and describes his lovely homeland Chile with an art I have never ever come across. Poet, Politician, Traveller, Revolutionary and finally a great human being, Neruda is a not only a person but a phenomenon which must be explored through this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ally

    Ugh, reading this in 2019: rape scene, racism, large sections of prose lauding great male writers and maybe one or two lines, maybe a single passage to his mentor Gabriela Mistral. Other women are sex objects, sex scenes, wives, or considered pathetic. For some strange reason, I did read through this book, perhaps fascinated by the politics of it all. But a large majority of it was abhorrent.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Patrick O'Neil

    I hate to say this but I think Neruda is a little heavy handed with words. He uses tons, he uses a whole freaking mountain worth of words and then some – homeboy can throw down some words. The man goes on and on, he makes every sentence obese with words, and more words. He’s a poet for Christ sake, isn’t he suppose to be all sparing with the words? What happened? Those guys usually just write a couple-a-fragmented-sentences and then call it a day, go drink some red wine, moan about the injustice I hate to say this but I think Neruda is a little heavy handed with words. He uses tons, he uses a whole freaking mountain worth of words and then some – homeboy can throw down some words. The man goes on and on, he makes every sentence obese with words, and more words. He’s a poet for Christ sake, isn’t he suppose to be all sparing with the words? What happened? Those guys usually just write a couple-a-fragmented-sentences and then call it a day, go drink some red wine, moan about the injustice of it all. And what’s the deal with the attention-deficit-disorder-jump-around-short-attention-span-can’t-keep-on-the-same-subject-for-more-that-six-pages thing? I’ve had more linear conversations with actively using crackheads. “Ah, the poets, the poets. There’s Juan Carlos el Topo del Norte, one of the finest poets the world has ever known. Too bad his words were never written down and published. That woman is looking at me, she wants me, of course she wants me. I’ll make love to her now. I need to go to Paris. Ah, the mountains, the forest, the land of my youth. It’s winter in France, where are my pants? Don Chi Chi del Pinnochi comes into my room, says you must try this woman, please, yes, I will try this woman, serve her to me like a side of Argentinean beef on a silver platter. She is magnificent, like no other, we both take her, we both agree, like no other we say – then we lose her in a taxicab. Oh, I’m an ambassador to Guam. There is a woman there that wants me, I know this, her beauty is like the poem I published in my book Pedacitos Poéticos Squirmy. Franco, what pain he cause his country. Where’s my ambassador salary? Look it’s Gandhi! The Fascists are in Germany. Are we there yet? She wants me, yes, yes she does. I Think I married her, we lived together for years. I was not at the consulate in Buenos Aires long. Barcelona. Oh, the poets, the poets…” Maybe it’s the translation. You can blame a lot on those insufferable translators. Yet what could anyone do with a couple of lines like this: “Girls of various colorings visited my campaign cot, leaving no record but the lightning spasm of the flesh. My body was a lonely bonfire burning night and day on that tropical coast.” (page 99) Ouch! Ick! Smoking sex machine, eh? Pablo just never stops, he’s sort of full of himself, sort of. I admire his ego, his stamina, his gall - although I had to fight the urge to take a shower between chapters – but I got tired of it really, really quick. That and the incessant name-dropping, the obscure references to published work, his and others, and the words. Too many words, man. Too many words. There is one scene/passage, it starts right after that horrid “lonely bonfire burning night and day on the tropical coast” line (middle of page 99 – 100). Where Pablo beds/forces a Tamil woman, who cleans out his shit pail every morning, to have sex with him. He goes on about her beauty, he compares her to a sculpture, and when they have sex he states: “It was the coming together of a man and a statue.” Ooooh, nice. Then he writes: “She kept her eyes wide open all the while, completely unresponsive. She was right to despise me. The experience was never repeated.” Right when I was about to toss the book across the room, for the fifth time I might add, Neruda goes and lets me see that he knows he’s a womanizing self centered egomaniac. She’s stiff as a statue, unresponsive to his machismo, submissive, because she was born into the pariah caste. She let him have his way, but she isn’t into it or him. Even Pablo, or Pablo’s ego actually, can grasp that she’s not interested. I know, no big revelation here, except, for a second I’m thinking maybe old Pablo really didn’t hold himself in such high regard as it appears he did – that it’s all mainly bravado, and he knows it. Then I threw the book across the room. However: “placid lakes, high up in the mountains, like eyes forgotten by wasteful gods.” (pg.155) Is such a lethargically beautiful image. “it was easier to pull a Mexican’s tooth then wrest his beloved gun from him.” (pg.157) This guy kills me. Yet I totally must admit the style, the language, and the pace, of the book is what really drove me insane. The truth is these days I want a little methamphetamine drive prose, just a little – too much and I’m shot to the curb, rubbing my eyes, wanting to go to sleep. David Sedaris, has just the right amount of ADD to keep the pace flowing and my interest engaged. Denis Johnson can get vague and wander a little bit. Ok, a lot. But when I’m reading one of his books I’m not looking at the map trying to figure out where he turned left and somehow we ended up in Winnemucca – he pointed me in that direction a long time ago, we’ve just made a few hundred stops along the way. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s incredible memoir: Vivir Para Contarla (Living to Tell the Tale), while highly poetic and prose driven, managed to get me from point A to point B, in one smooth linear motion. And Marquez, sexist as he was/is, didn’t leave me with a queasy porno booth voyeur feeling – and besides, he’s freakin Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 100 years of Solitude man! Mary Karr composed the most beautiful dysfunctional memoir ever written and when I was done I wanted more, read Cherry, still wanted more – addictive she is. I had no preconceived notion as to what to expect from Neruda, I was interested, I was intrigued, I’ve never knowingly read his poetry, but I certainly knew who he was and have nothing but respect for the man and his politics – and still I found him hard to read. Perhaps he was a tad unleashed with the prospect of just writing about himself? I mean, I know the feeling. I’m so self-absorbed that’s all I write about – me, me, bloody me! Have I gone off the subject yet? Is this Winnemucca? Did I mention there were too many words?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shaudee

    A truly fanastic fantastical book of memoirs! Neruda has an amazing knack for language and mysticism, a quality that I'm sure can be difficult when writing fiction (even for a poet). The way he takes the figures of history (Che, Allende, and Paul Eluard) and turns them into such unique and strange characters is a real talent that I believe makes Neruda's non-fiction particularly compelling over other non-fiction historical works. I also appreciate the way in which he compartmentalized his memori A truly fanastic fantastical book of memoirs! Neruda has an amazing knack for language and mysticism, a quality that I'm sure can be difficult when writing fiction (even for a poet). The way he takes the figures of history (Che, Allende, and Paul Eluard) and turns them into such unique and strange characters is a real talent that I believe makes Neruda's non-fiction particularly compelling over other non-fiction historical works. I also appreciate the way in which he compartmentalized his memories into brief moments or scenes; this is how life is truly remembered. Our memories of the years do not so easily flow from one day to the next but instead are made up of fragments and pieces of what has struck us. Neruda's references to so many poets and authors is also a great and unique feature of the book, and already I have composed a list of works referenced in Memoirs that I'd like to check out. Neruda was an impressive man and confirmed my belief that poetry does, in fact, have the ability to move masses of people. It can be done! If only we let it!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Arcadia

    I'm writing this early in the morning, and it seems to be that everything I had thought of saying about this book has left my brain. Nonetheless, this has been one of the top life-chainging books that I've read this year. Pablo Neruda has opened up Spanish literature to me in a beautifully accessible to way, to the extent that I began to read 'veinte poemas'. It's a compellingly beautiful narrative, where the story has as much interest as to Neruda's conjectures on life as a word crafter. I gues I'm writing this early in the morning, and it seems to be that everything I had thought of saying about this book has left my brain. Nonetheless, this has been one of the top life-chainging books that I've read this year. Pablo Neruda has opened up Spanish literature to me in a beautifully accessible to way, to the extent that I began to read 'veinte poemas'. It's a compellingly beautiful narrative, where the story has as much interest as to Neruda's conjectures on life as a word crafter. I guess it had deeper resonance with me as it exposed me to a potential life as a poet that I endeavour to pursue. Reading his poetry has really showed me a peek of what is hidden behind his, somewhat in 'Confieso', sealed brilliance. That's why this gets a 4 and not a 5. This is a really uninspired review for what is truly a spectacular book, but its not even 9 in the morning :(

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sheri Fresonke Harper

    Pablo Neruda writes poetically about his country, Chile, and his duties representing his country and his poetry around the world. He also discusses what membership in the Communist Party meant to him since he came from a working class family and spent time with the miners and poor in his country. The book speaks of many of the South American, Russian, French, Spanish etc. poets he met during his life and how they helped each other out. He also explains some of his poetry readings, and how various Pablo Neruda writes poetically about his country, Chile, and his duties representing his country and his poetry around the world. He also discusses what membership in the Communist Party meant to him since he came from a working class family and spent time with the miners and poor in his country. The book speaks of many of the South American, Russian, French, Spanish etc. poets he met during his life and how they helped each other out. He also explains some of his poetry readings, and how various situations that occurred during his life time affected him including the Spanish War, World War II, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, etc. It's an enjoyable read and made me want to visit Chile.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Kaiowá

    One of the greatest poets ever telling about his incredible life.. An inspiring must read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I love Chile and I love his poems but I couldn't be more disappointed to learn he was such a sexist man. The book is worth reading because of so many stories related to the Latin American people. Nevertheless, there are 3 episodes quite disturbing for me: In his youth the way he describes and has relations with a woman. Later on the way he treats his first wife by his own account. And finally when he wins the Nobel there is a disgusting racist episode, that although it wasn't provoked by him, the I love Chile and I love his poems but I couldn't be more disappointed to learn he was such a sexist man. The book is worth reading because of so many stories related to the Latin American people. Nevertheless, there are 3 episodes quite disturbing for me: In his youth the way he describes and has relations with a woman. Later on the way he treats his first wife by his own account. And finally when he wins the Nobel there is a disgusting racist episode, that although it wasn't provoked by him, the way he reacts it's really devastating.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lumberjuan

    Wow. Runs like a history of the 20th century. He was there. He did it all. He wrote it well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pasatoiu George

    Oscar Wilde once said :" To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist , that is all." There is definitely no precise pattern that can be applied to someone's life, to measure if it was truly lived or not, as everyone can find meaning in various things and can interpret events or people differently. Coming up to this book, I must say that the phrase that gives its title is very well chosen. Besides being a famous Chilean poet and somehow associated to the communist party, I knew ne Oscar Wilde once said :" To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist , that is all." There is definitely no precise pattern that can be applied to someone's life, to measure if it was truly lived or not, as everyone can find meaning in various things and can interpret events or people differently. Coming up to this book, I must say that the phrase that gives its title is very well chosen. Besides being a famous Chilean poet and somehow associated to the communist party, I knew next to nothing about Pablo Neruda. That is not even his real name, but one that he chose inspired by a Czech poet (Jan Neruda), because his father despised the idea of his son becoming a writer. Proving inspiration and talent from a young age, Ricardo Neftalí Reyes Basoalto soon made a name for himself and became recognized as one of South America greatest poets. But why is the title fit for describing the life of Neruda? I would say because he saw around half of the world in his travels, met interesting or powerful people, was loved by many and hated by some, as he created an opera that will last for hundreds of years, which brought him the Nobel Prize in 1971. He even had a pet mongoose while he was living in Ceylon. Yet , he describes his view of a perfect life as sitting somewhere, isolated, reading his favorite books. While retelling his life, Neruda talks about his travels and his interactions with the various political regimes and rulers he met. He lived during a period full of turmoil, sometimes being in the center of dangerous events. The Spanish civil war and the Franco regime with the execution of the great poet Garcia Lorca somehow made him change his life and his work, becoming an advocate of communism. Having a rather idealistic view on what communism should be and do, he eventually becomes a senator in Chile, but his activity later forced him to run into exile because of his conflicts with the local authorities. His poetry and actions were highly appreciated by powerful people such as Fidel Castro, Stalin, Luis Carlos Prestes, Salvador Allende, artists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez , Picasso or Garcia Lorca. Even if it meant facing the opposition of his father, or adapting to a new life and a very different culture as he became a consul in Rangoon or other parts of the world, or confronting the adversities of the political regimes of the 20th century, Neruda seems to have stayed true to his beliefs and spoke his mind when he had the chance. And that's not a bad thing to do when living your life...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ranja

    Very interesting and lovely read. The last sentences of the last chapter had me moved to tears.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessaka

    This is the memoirs of Pablo Neruda, the Noble Prize winning poet who fought for and wrote about freedom. The book sometimes reads like a travel guide, an adventure, and sometimes with his trying to get out of the country or out of prison. He writes his memoir often like he does his poems, and this is what I like about it most, but at other times his daily life can become somewhat boring. Passages I love: Of Moscow he writes: "Moscow is a winter city. It is a beautiful city of winter. The snow has This is the memoirs of Pablo Neruda, the Noble Prize winning poet who fought for and wrote about freedom. The book sometimes reads like a travel guide, an adventure, and sometimes with his trying to get out of the country or out of prison. He writes his memoir often like he does his poems, and this is what I like about it most, but at other times his daily life can become somewhat boring. Passages I love: Of Moscow he writes: "Moscow is a winter city. It is a beautiful city of winter. The snow has settled on the infinitely repeated roofs. The pavements shine, invariably clean. The air is hard transparent glass. A soft steel color, the tiny feathers of the snow swirling about, the coming and going of thousands of passers-by as if they didn’t feel the cold, all of it suggests a dream in which Moscow becomes a huge winter palace with extraordinary ornamentations, ghostly as well as living ones." Or this of China: "I observe that a noticeable change has taken place during the five years I have been away from China…what has changed in the streets, in the people? Ah, I miss the color blue. Five yeas ago at this time of year I visited the streets of China, always overflowing, always throbbing with human lives. But everyone was dress in proletarian blue then, some kind of twill or light workingman’s tweed…It was a beautiful thing to see innumerable blue specks crossing streets and roads…What has happened? The textile industry has simply grown big enough in these five year to clothe millions of Chines women in all colors, in flower, stripes, and polka dots, in all varieties of silk; and enough also for millions of Chinese men to wear other colors and better fabrics. Now each street is a delicate rainbow of china’s exquisite taste…" And of the suffering of peasant people in Turkey: "Nazim would see them arrive in prison: he would watch them swapping for tobacco the crust of bread doled out to them as their daily ration. Eventually, they would begin looking at the grass distractedly. Then with closer attention, almost avidly. And one day they would stuff a few blades of grass into their mouths. Later they would pull up fistfuls and gulp them down. In the end, they would eat the grass on all fours, like horses."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    As one might anticipate from a Nobel-winning poet, this memoir was beautifully written. I particularly enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, which focused on his early life, poetry, and travels around the world as consul general for Chile. His experiences and friendships with other writers (particularly Garcia Lorca) were very interesting. The last third was less engaging and focused on Chile’s communist party and political events in the country. While I respect his work, I do take issue with Neruda As one might anticipate from a Nobel-winning poet, this memoir was beautifully written. I particularly enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, which focused on his early life, poetry, and travels around the world as consul general for Chile. His experiences and friendships with other writers (particularly Garcia Lorca) were very interesting. The last third was less engaging and focused on Chile’s communist party and political events in the country. While I respect his work, I do take issue with Neruda’s attitude towards women. He does seem to respect women artists (Gabriela Mistral) in particular, but his attitude towards women in general is terrible. His own wife, Mathilde (can’t remember if she was the 2nd or 3rd), the supposed love of his life, gets a grand total of one page. In his early years he is quite the philanderer. Most disturbingly, with zero self awareness he describes one “encounter” that is clearly rape. I very nearly stopped reading at that point. Great poet. Fascinating life. Flawed human.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kanishka

    It's poetic, the beauty of the words, the visualization it draws for you is stunning. The writing meanders, wanders slowly. It's not the kind of book that will grip you as a page turner, but the kind you want to come back to, to soothe your senses, to draw you into another world. No I am not finished with it yet! It's poetic, the beauty of the words, the visualization it draws for you is stunning. The writing meanders, wanders slowly. It's not the kind of book that will grip you as a page turner, but the kind you want to come back to, to soothe your senses, to draw you into another world. No I am not finished with it yet!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    A brilliant man who had a brilliant life and who wrote beautifully - but at the same time, I remember one of my professors once saying that good poets write bad prose & I can't help but feel that that's the case here in places. Still, at other times it's totally stunning, & the subject matter tends to be also - a powerful & passionate account of communist & anti-fascist struggle, for one thing. A brilliant man who had a brilliant life and who wrote beautifully - but at the same time, I remember one of my professors once saying that good poets write bad prose & I can't help but feel that that's the case here in places. Still, at other times it's totally stunning, & the subject matter tends to be also - a powerful & passionate account of communist & anti-fascist struggle, for one thing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Neruda obviously has an incredible way with words. In a memoir those came in fits and starts. But reading for me came to a screeching halt 1/3 of the way through the book when he writes, in one short paragraph, of raping a woman. He closed out the 9-sentence paragraph with, "the experience was never repeated." Neruda obviously has an incredible way with words. In a memoir those came in fits and starts. But reading for me came to a screeching halt 1/3 of the way through the book when he writes, in one short paragraph, of raping a woman. He closed out the 9-sentence paragraph with, "the experience was never repeated."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Calderon

    In this book Neruda reveals details about his life that present us with an excellent, albeit, somewhat unreliable, backdrop for reading his literature. Passion, love, existential crisis, and an awakened social consciousness exude from this amazing work of art. I recommend it highly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Farrukh Pitafi

    Magical. Beautiful. If you get a copy never ever lose it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

    Such a full life written about so beautifully.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A review of Pablo Neruda’s memoirs, if it were to be just and fully truthful, would need to be like Borges’ map that in describing an empire stretches to that empire's very borders in dimension; any true review would need to be simply a word for word reproduction of Neruda’s book itself. Thus I will not waste your time with superfluous commendations for a poet that won every literary award worth winning, who was martyred for his unbending alliance with the people and their suffering at the hands A review of Pablo Neruda’s memoirs, if it were to be just and fully truthful, would need to be like Borges’ map that in describing an empire stretches to that empire's very borders in dimension; any true review would need to be simply a word for word reproduction of Neruda’s book itself. Thus I will not waste your time with superfluous commendations for a poet that won every literary award worth winning, who was martyred for his unbending alliance with the people and their suffering at the hands of power. Pablo Neruda is an amazing human being whose memory should live forever. I have selected a number of pages of quotes from his autobiography, but the best way to read this book would probably be to memorize it in its entirety. Note the quotes are chronological--political commentary starts in force in the middle/end. “I got used to riding on horseback. My world expanded upard and outward along the towering mud trails, over roads with sudden curves. I encountered the tangled vegetation, the silence or the sounds of wild birds, the sudden outburst of a flowering tree dressed in scarlet robes like a gigantic archbishop of the mountains, or snowed under by a riot of blossoms I had never seen before Or from time to time, when least expected, the copihue bell-flower, wild, untamable, indestructible, dangling from the thickets like a drop of fresh blood. Slowly I got used to the horse, the sadle, the stiff, complicated riding gear, the cruel spurs jangling at my heels. Along endless beaches or thicketed hills, a communion was started between my spirit—that is, my poetry—and the loneliest land in the world. This was many years ago, but that communion, that revelation, that pact with the wilderness, is still a part of my life.” (18) “Still trembling after this first visit from the muse, I held out to them the paper with the lines of verse. My father took it absentmindedly, read it absentmindedly, and returned it to me absentmindedly, saying: ‘Where did you copy this from?’ then he went on talking to my mother in a lowered voice about his important and remote affairs. That, I seem to remember, was how my first poem was born, and that was how I had my first sample of irresponsible literary criticism.” (20) “The authorities, who from colonial times to the present have been at the service of the rich, did not jail the assaulters but the assaulted. Domingo Gomez Rojas, the young hope of Chilean poetry, was tortured, and went mad and died in a dungeon.” (37) “In Buenos Aires I met a very eccentric Argentine writer whose name was, or is, Omar vignole; I don’t know if he is still living. He was a giant of a man and carried a heavy walking stick. Once, in a midtown restaurant where he had invited me to dinner, he turned to me at the table, motioning me to a seat, and said in a booming voice that could be heard throughout the room, which was filled with regular customers: ‘Sit down, Omar Vignole!’ I sat down a bit uneasily and promptly asked: ‘Why do you call me Omar Vignole? You know that you are Omar Vignole and I am Pablo Neruda.’ ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘but there are lots of people in this restaurant who only know me by name. And several of them want to thrash the daylights out of me; I’d rather have them do it to you.’” (42) “From the deck, as the ship drew into Rangoon, I saw looming ahead the gold funnel of the great pagoda, Shwe Dagon. A multitude of strange costumes clashed their vibrant colors on the pier. A broad dirty river’s mouth emptied there, into the Gulf of Martaban. This river has the most beautiful name of all the rivers in the world: Irrawaddy. Beside its waters, my new life was about to begin.” (75) “The theosphic centers were generally run by adventurers from the West, including North and South Americans. Of course, there were people among them who acted in good faith, but the majority exploited a cheap market where exotic amulets and fetishes wrapped in metaphysical sales talk were sold wholesale. These people were always spouting Sharma and yoga. They reveled in religious acrobatics, all empty show and high-sounding words. For these reasons, the Orient struck me as a large hapless human family, leaving no room in my conscience for its rites and gods. I don’t believe, then, that my poetry during this period reflected anything but the loneliness of an outsider transplanted to a violent, alien world.” (84) “There were exceptions within this narrow colonialism, I found out later. Suddenly an Englishman from the Service Club would go off the deep end about some Indian beauty. he was immediately fired and cut off like a leper by his countrymen. Something else happened at about this time: the colonists ordered the burning of a Singhalese peasant’s hut, to rout him out in order to expropriate his land. The Englishman ordered to burn the hut to the ground was a modest official named Leonard Woolf. he refused and was dismissed from his post. Shipped back to England he wrote one of the best books ever published about the Orient: A Village in the Jungle. A masterpiece true both to life and to literature, it was virtually eclipsed by the fame of his wife, none other than Virginia Woolf, the great subjective novelist of world renown.” (93) “But my work was progressing very slowly. Distance and a deep silence separated me from my world, and I could not bring myself to enter wholeheartedly the alien world around me. things that happened in my life, which was suspended in a vacuum, were brought together in my book as if they were natural events: “Closer to life’s blood than to the ink.” I tried to purify my style, but relied more and more on a wild melancholy. I insisted on truth and effective rhetoric (because they are the ingredients for the bread of poetry) in a bitter style that worked systematically toward my own destruction. They style is not only the man. It is also everything around him, and if the very air he breathes does not enter into the poem, the poem is dead: dead because it has not had a chance to breathe.” (97) “Once I gave a talk on Garcia Lorca, years after his death, and someone in the audience asked me: ‘In you Oda a Federicao Garcia Lorca,’ why do you say that they paint hospitals blue for him? ‘Look, my friend,’ I replied, ‘asking a poet that kind of question is like asking a woman her age. Poetry is not static matter but a flowing current that quite often escapes from the hans of the creator himself. His raw material consists of elements that are and at the same time are not, of things that exist and do not exist.”(123) On Paul Eluard and Aragon: “Few human beings were as different from each other as these two. I often enjoyed the poetic pleasure of wasting time with paul Eluard. If poets answered public-opinion polls truthfully, they would give the secret away: there is nothing as beautiful as wasting time. Everyone has his own style for this pastime, as old as time itself. With Paul, I would lose all sense of the passing of day or night, and I never cared if what we were talking about was important or not. Aragon is an electronic machine of intelligence, learning, virulence, high-speed eloquence. I always left Eluard’s home smiling without even knowing why. I come out of a few hours spent with Aragon completely worn out, because this demon of a man has forced me to think. Both men have been my stalwart friends, and perhaps what attracts me most about them is the tremendous difference in the nature of their great talents.” (127) “Rafael Alberti Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread. Arsonists, warmongers, wolves hunt down the poet to burn, kill, sink their teeth into him. A swordsman left Pushkin mortally wounded under the trees in a dark and gloomy park. The fiery horses of war charged over Petofi’s lifeless body. Byron died in Greece, fighting against war. The Spanish Fascists started off the war in Spain by assassinating its greatest poet.” (137) “I had to suffer and struggle, to love and sing; I drew my worldly share of triumphs and defets, I tsted bred and blood. What more can a poet want? And all the choices, tears or kisses, loneliness or the fraternity of man, survive in m poetry and are an essential part of it, because I have lived for my petry and my poetry has nourished everything I have striven for. And if I have received many awards, awards fleeting as butterflies, fragile as pollen, I hae attained a greater prize, one that some people may deride but not many can attain. I have gone through a difficult apprenticeship and a long search, and also through the labyrinths of the written word, to become the poet of my people. That is my reward, not the books and the poems that have been translated, or the books written to explicate or to dissect my words. My reward is the momentous oaccasion when, from the depths of the Lota coal mine, a man came up out of the tunnel into the full sunlight on the fiery nitrate field, as if rising out of hell, his face disfigured by his terrible work, his eyes inflamed by the dust, and stretching the map of the pampas, he said to me, his eyes shining: ‘I have known you for a long time , my brother.’ That is the laurel crown for my poetry, that opening in the bleak pampa from which a worker emerges who has been told often by the wind and the night and the stars of Chile: ‘You’re not alone; there’s a poet whose thoughts are with you in your suffering.’ I became a member of Chile’s Communist Party on July 15, 1945.”(171) “But in France my identity posed a problem once more. My brand-new passport would never get me past the implacable close scrutiny of the Surete. I would have to give up being Miguel Angel Asturias and turn back into Pablo Neruda… My advisors made me check in at the George V Hotel. ‘there among international celebrities, no one is going to ask you for your papers,’… And then Picasso showed up, whose kindness matched his genius. He was as thrilled as a little boy, because he had just given the first speech of his life. Its theme had been my poetry, my persecution, my absence. Now, with brotherly feeling, the inspired minotaur of modern painting got me out of my predicament, taking care of all the details this involved. he spoke to the authorities; he called up a good many people. I don’t know how many marvelous paintings he failed to paint on account of me. I felt very badly that he was losing time so precious to him.” (187) “Every people makes its alcoholic beverages from what they can. This one was made from Camel’s milk. Shivers still run up and down my spine when I recall its taste. But how wonderful to have been in Ulan Bator! More so for someone like me who lives in all beautiful names. I live in them as in dream mansions intended just for me. And so I have lived, relishing every syllable, in Singapore’s, in Samarkand’s names. When I die, I want to be buried in a name, some especially chosen, beautiful-sounding name, so that its syllables will sing over my bones, near the sea.”(207) “In 1927, to be exact, at the age of twenty-three, I landed in this same Rangoon. It was delirious with color, a torrid and fascinating place, and its languages were impenetrable. The colony was being exploited and preyed on by its English rulers, but the city was clean and luminous, its streets sparkled with life, the shop windows displayed their colonial temptations. It was a half-empty city now, with bare shop windows, and filth piled up in the streets. A people’s struggle for independence is not an easy road. After the people’s uprising and the flags of freedom, we must open our way through hardships and storms. To date, I don’t know the story of independent Burma, so cloistered is it beside the powerful Irrawaddy River, at the foot of its golden pagodas, but—over and beyond the garbage in its streets and the sadness rippling past—I was able to imagine all those dark dramas that shake up new republics. It was as if the past still oppressed them.”(231) “In Kunming, the first Chinese city across the border, our old friend, the poet Ai Ch’ing was waiting for us. His broad dark features, his large eyes brimming with mischief and kindness, his quick intelligence, were once more a promise of pleasure during this long journey. Like Ho Chi Minh, Ai Ch’ing belonged to the old Oriental stock of poets conditioned by colonialist oppression in the Orient and a hard life in Paris. Coming from prisons in their native land, the poets, whose voices were natural and lyrical, became needy students or waiters in restaurants abroad. They never lost confidence in the Revolution. Very gentle in their poetry but iron-jawed in politics, they had come home in time to carry out their destinies.”(231) “In Kunming, the trees in the park had undergone plastic surgery. They had taken on unnatural forms, and sometimes one could make out an amputation packed in mud or a contorted limb still in bandages, like an injured arm. We were taken to see the gardener, the evil genius who reigned over such an unusual garden. Stumpy old firs had not grown beyond thirty centimeters, and we even saw midget orange trees covered with miniature oranges like golden rice grains. We also visited a bizarre stone forest. Each rock was elongated like a monolithic needle or bristled like a wave in a still sea. We discovered that this taste for rocks with strange forms was centuries old. Many huge rocks with puzzling shapes decorate the squares in ancient Chinese cities. In bygone days, when governors wanted to give the emperor the best present they could find, they sent him some of these colossal stones. The presents took years to reach Peking, the huge bulks pushed for thousands of kilometers by dozens of slaves” (232) “What has estranged me from the Chinese revolutionary process has not been Mao Tse-tung but Mao Tse-tungism. I mean Mao-Stalinism, the repetition of a cult to a socialist deity. Who can deny Mao the political personality of a great organizer, of the great liberator of a people? How could I fail to be impressed by his epic halo, his simplicity which is so poetic, so melancholy, and so ancient? Yet during my trip I saw hundreds of poor peasants, returning from their labors, prostrate themselves, before putting away their tools, to salute the portrait of the modes guerrilla fighter from Yunnan, transformed into a god now. I saw hundreds of persons waving a little red book, the universal panacea for winning at ping-pong, curing appendicitis, and solving political problems. This adulation flows from every mouth, and every day, from every newspaper and every magazine, from every notebook and every other kind of book, from every almanac and every theater, from every sculpture and every painting. In Stalin’s case, I had contributed my share to the personality cult. But in those days Stalin seemed to us the conqueror who had crushed Hitler’s armies, the savior of all humanity. The deterioration of his character was a mysterious process, still an enigma for many of us. And now, here in plain sight, in the vast expanse of the new china’s land and skies, once more a man was turning into a myth right before my eyes. A myth destined to lord it over the revolutionary conscience, to put in one man’s grip the creation of a world that must belong to all. I could not swallow that bitter pill a second time.” (237) “My friend, the novelist Ting Ling…was stripped of her position as president of the Writer’s Union and sentenced to wait on tables at the restaurant of the same Writers’ Union she had headed for so many years. However, she did her work as a waitress with so much pride and dignity that she was soon transferred to the kitchen in a remote peasants’ commune. This is the last news I had of this great Communist writer, one of the most important figures of Chinese letters.” (239) “The German armies were gaining ground in French territory. France’s most intelligent soldier, poet and officer Louis Aragon, reached an advance post. He commanded a detachment of male nurses. His orders were to go beyond this post to a building located three hundred meters ahead. The captain in charge there stopped him. He was Count Alphonse de Rothschild, younger than Aragon and as quick-blooded as he. ‘You can’t pass beyond this point,’ he said. ‘The German fire is too close.’ ‘My instructions are to get to that building,’ Aragon replied pertly. ‘My orders are that you are not to go on, you must stay right here,’ the captain replied. Knowing Aragon as well as I do, I am sure that during the argument sparks flew like hand grenades, answers like sword thrusts. But it didn’t even last ten minutes. Suddenly, before the startled eyes of Rothschild and Aragon, a grenade from a German mortar struck the building, converting it instantly to smoke, rubble, and smoldering ashes. And so France’s first poet was saved, thanks to the stubbornness of a Rothschild. Ever since then, on the anniversary of this incident, Aragon receives several bonnes bouteilles of Mouton-Rothschild from the vineyards of the count who was his captain during the last war.” (245) “Caramba!, I thought, it must be the Albas’ family tree. I was wrong. It was Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’—that uninspired, sanctimonious poetry, precursor of the Reader’s Digest, whose intellectual level, in my opinion, was no higher than that of the Duke of Alba’s shoes. May the British Empire forgive me!”(249) “One day someone came to fetch me in a car, which I climbed into without knowing exactly where or why I was going. I had a copy of my book Espana en el Corazon in my pocket. In the car they explained to me that I was invited to give a lecture at the union hall of the Vega market loaders… How should I handle this audience? What could I speak to them about? What things in my life would hold their interes? I could not make up my mind, but disguising my desire to run out of there, I took the book I was carrying with me and said to them: ‘I was in Spain a short time back. A lot of fighting and a lot of shooting were going on there. Listen to what I’ve written about it.’… I should explain that my book Espana en el Corazon has never seemed to me an easy book to understand. It tries to be clear, but it is steeped in the torrent of overwhelming and painful events. Well, I thought I would just read a handful of poems, add a few words, and say goodbye. But it didn’t work out that way. Reading poem after poem, hearing the deep well of silence into which my words were falling, watching those eyes and dark eyebrows following my verses so intently, I realized that my book was hitting its mark. I went on reading and reading, affected by the sound of my own poetry, shaken by the magnetic power that linked my poems and those forsaken souls. The reading lasted more than an hour. As I was about to leave, one of the men rose to his feet. He was one of those who had a sack knotted around his waist. ‘Iwant to thank you for all of us,’ he spoke out. ‘I want to tell you, too, that nothing has ever moved us so much.’ When he finished talking, he couldn’t hold back a sob. Several others were also weeping. I walked out into the street between moist eyes and rough handclasps. Can a poet still be the same after going through these trials of fire and ice?” (255) “Well, this thing, where one poet publishes for other poets, doesn’t tempt me doesn’t lure me, only drives me to bury myself deep in nature’s woods, before a rock or a wave, far from the publishing houses, from the printed page…Poetry has lost its ties with the reader, he’s out of reach…It has to get him back…It has to walk in the darkness and encounter the heart of man, the eyes of woman, the strangers in the streets,

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rick Elinson

    Piqued by Isabel Allende's "A Long Petal of the Sea" but not appreciative of poetry, I chose this memoir to know more about Pablo Neruda. The book is a fantastic mix of reminiscences. Although I knew few of the poets and politicians that Neruda discusses, his beautiful, engaging prose carried the book along. It gave a glimpse of his poetic powers. Neruda talks of being a popular poet, giving readings to hardened Chilean miners and to stadium-filled audiences. He was like a rock star. That is ver Piqued by Isabel Allende's "A Long Petal of the Sea" but not appreciative of poetry, I chose this memoir to know more about Pablo Neruda. The book is a fantastic mix of reminiscences. Although I knew few of the poets and politicians that Neruda discusses, his beautiful, engaging prose carried the book along. It gave a glimpse of his poetic powers. Neruda talks of being a popular poet, giving readings to hardened Chilean miners and to stadium-filled audiences. He was like a rock star. That is very hard to imagine for an English-speaking audience. Perhaps in English-speaking North America, our poets are now songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell. Acknowledgement of that was the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan, a prize previously won by Neruda.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    "When we are far from our country we never picture it in it's winter." Beautiful passages, but I got lost in the sections after his travels when he names other writers and friends. His Mexico travels were a highlight as was the stunning descriptions of his escape from Chile through the Andes. He writes the final passages days before his death. It's easy to belive why he might have been killed. https://www.google.com/amp/s/wtop.com... "When we are far from our country we never picture it in it's winter." Beautiful passages, but I got lost in the sections after his travels when he names other writers and friends. His Mexico travels were a highlight as was the stunning descriptions of his escape from Chile through the Andes. He writes the final passages days before his death. It's easy to belive why he might have been killed. https://www.google.com/amp/s/wtop.com...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Chang

    What a fantastic and amazing poet. It's hard to understand today what an icon he was in his time. He did not go into much debth about his specific poems. Some he said he was proud of, some he said were a bit too dark. I enjoyed reading his take on the role of poets. They had a real role in the world and today? Neruda called himself a poet of the people and I believe him. More needs to be shed on the plight of the average person today. We need another Neruda for today. What a fantastic and amazing poet. It's hard to understand today what an icon he was in his time. He did not go into much debth about his specific poems. Some he said he was proud of, some he said were a bit too dark. I enjoyed reading his take on the role of poets. They had a real role in the world and today? Neruda called himself a poet of the people and I believe him. More needs to be shed on the plight of the average person today. We need another Neruda for today.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

    I'm not knowledgeable about Pablo Neruda, but I've been interested in his life since watching the Chilean film "Neruda." It was interesting to see his life through his point of view and very educational. Neruda however seems to be a better poet than autobiographer. The end of the book had a lot of ramblings I didn't care for. I'm not knowledgeable about Pablo Neruda, but I've been interested in his life since watching the Chilean film "Neruda." It was interesting to see his life through his point of view and very educational. Neruda however seems to be a better poet than autobiographer. The end of the book had a lot of ramblings I didn't care for.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Excellent autobiography. Easy to read style of writing. Really felt like I was there living life along with the author as he goes into great detail. Have always loved his poetry, along with Robert Frost - and I am not a strong lover of poetry. Highly recommend!

  28. 5 out of 5

    GG

    A movable feast… The first 2/3 are the best parts, where Neruda revisits his youth and illuminates many colorful characters from his travels, leading up to his political activity before and after World War II.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chanti

    I read this slowly (over the course of a few years) and it is so delightful. It's fantastical, with tales that I suspect are definitely embellished, but there is a sense of aliveness, whimsy, and passion. It captures the archetype of the "ultimate romantic" so well. I read this slowly (over the course of a few years) and it is so delightful. It's fantastical, with tales that I suspect are definitely embellished, but there is a sense of aliveness, whimsy, and passion. It captures the archetype of the "ultimate romantic" so well.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I wanted to read this because we are travelling to Chile and wanted to know more about him. I am not a poetry fan so opted to read his memoirs which were very interesting. Can’t wait to tour his house in Valparaiso.

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