The Book of Questions

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Overview

A new bilingual Spanish-English edition of Neruda's famous Book of Questions, a Copper Canyon bestseller.

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Overview

A new bilingual Spanish-English edition of Neruda's famous Book of Questions, a Copper Canyon bestseller.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 74 poems in this collection consist entirely of questions. These questions appeal to the reader to supply images not answers. Exploiting the lag between perception and understanding, the Nobel laureate's poems evoke pictures that make sense on a visual level before the reader can grasp them on a literal one. The effect is mildly dazzling: ``Where did the full moon leave / its sack of flour tonight?'' Composed during the final months of a fatal illness, these poems are also pervaded by an autumnal atmosphere: ``Why do leaves commit suicide / when they feel yellow?'' Yet Neruda's characteristic depiction of life and death as cyclical allows him to be inquisitive and even playful toward his own mortality instead of despairing: ``Will your worms become part / of dogs or of butterflies?'' O'Daly's translations achieve a tone that is both meditative and spontaneous. His introduction, however, fares less well, in yielding to the misconception of Neruda Still Another Day as a kind of South American shaman rather than representing him as the shrewd and ironic poet he demonstrated himself to be even in minor works such as this. Sept.
Library Journal
Once called ``a one-man Renaissance,'' Nobel laureate and Chilean poet and statesman Neruda 1904-1973 wrote these 74 poems and 316 playful questions about death, nature, and rebirth in the last year of his life. Cryptic and intriguing, these brief answerless riddles, like Roethke's visionary poems, ask the sophisticated question of the innocent child--``Is the sun the same as yesterday's/ or is the fire different than that fire?''--and probe what it means to be human: ``Whom can I ask what I came/to make happen in this world?'' This volume is the last in a series of seven bilingual translations from this publishers of Neruda's late and posthumously published work. American poetry and readers benefit by having excellent English-language translations of all Neruda's complicated, prolific work.-- Frank Al len, SUNY at Cobleskill
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556591600
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Language: Spanish
  • Series: Kage-an Books Series , #0
  • Edition description: Bilingual Edition: English & Spanish
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 345,901
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) held diplomatic posts in Asian and European countries. After joining the Communist Party, Neruda was elected to the Chilean Senate but was forced to live in exile in Mexico for several years. Eventually he established a permanent home on Isla Negra. In 1970 he was appointed as Chile's ambassador to France; in 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. William O'Daly is one of the most celebrated translators of the poetry of Pablo Neruda. He lives in California.

Biography

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose real name is Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried Doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls' secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily "La Mañana," among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia -- his first publication -- and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.

Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic production during that difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked his literary breakthrough.

The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el corazón (1937). The same year he returned to his native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was characterized by an orientation towards political and social matters. España en el corazón had a great impact by virtue of its being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.

In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, consul general in Mexico, where he rewrote his "Canto general de Chile," transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto general, was published in Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately 250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes the central part of Neruda's production. Shortly after its publication, Canto general was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living abroad.

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla's repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities; one example is Las uvas y el viento (1954), which can be regarded as the diary of Neruda's exile. In Odas elementales (1954-1959) his message is expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects of the hymns -- things, events and relations -- are duly presented in alphabetic form.

Neruda's production is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962 the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two volumes. Among his works of the last few years can be mentioned Cien sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife, Matilde Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Arte de pajáros (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (1967), Las manos del día (1968), Fin del mundo (1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.

Pablo Neruda died in 1973.

© The Nobel Foundation 1971

Good To Know

Always a political activist, Neruda was an anarchist for a time, but joined the Communist Party of Chile in 1945. He actually ran for president of Chile but eventually left the race to support Salvador Allende.

He had three wives throughout his lifetime: Mar a Antonieta Hagenaar, Delia de Carril, and Matilde Urrutia. He married Mar in 1930, but they divorced in 1936. He lived with Carril from the 1930s until they divorced in 1955 (they married in 1943). In 1966, he married Urrutia.

Neruda owned three homes in Chile that are open today as museums: "La Chascona" in Santiago, "La Sebastiana" in Valpara, and "Casa de Isla Negra" in Isla Negra, where he and his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, are buried.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 12, 1904
    2. Place of Birth:
      Parral, Chile
    1. Date of Death:
      September 23, 1973
    2. Place of Death:
      Santiago, Chile

First Chapter

III.

Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?

Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots?

Who hears the regrets
of the thieving automobile?

Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?

XIV.

And what did the rubies say
standing before the juice of pomegranates?

Why doesn't Thursday talk itself
into coming after Friday?

Who shouted with glee
when the color blue was born?

Why does the earth grieve
when the violets appear?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2006

    Brief Lines That Create Nostalgia For Pablo Neruda

    Pablo Neruda is much missed as a poet and thinker. Since his death in 1973 there has been an even stronger growing of appreciation for his unique style of writing. During his last days he composed this strange little collection of some 300-odd questions and a number of poems all dealing with the life cycle as only one who sees his end at hand can write. The subjects are death, rebirth and nature in as complete a marriage of intention as any poet has created. They are beautifully translated by William O'Daly. Intending his reader to be stimulated by his words to create a visual image that is personal, his questions from this volume so aptly titled 'The Book of Questions' open our eyes and our minds to some rapturously beautiful experiences. Examples: 'Why don't inanimate things do something? Where did a celestial body leave something tonight? Why don't they train helicopters to suck honey from the sunlight? Where did the full moon leave its sack of flour tonight?' Warmly humorous, touching and eventually elevating, the questions remain on the backs of our eyes awaiting reentry into our brains for relish at needy times. Neruda is a poet for all seasons. Just read this book and discover. Grady Harp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    Heterodox in a Romantic language:

    The last of Neruda's unpublished works reels his political beleifs closer to simplicity, which is to say they can be questioned just as love or people are. His battery of questions appeals to aspects of everyday life and brings meaning to them by both extol and embarrassment. I prefer the original manuscript; Spanish is the only language that can hold a candle to Neruda's style. However, this book's translation does hold truth to his originality. Like most of his work, The Book of Questions is hard to describe; for poetry can only be experienced first hand. I encourage any fan to pick up a copy, under the condition he/she present their imagination as well. Enjoy.

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