I Explain a Few Things: Selected Poems

Overview

"Laughter is the language of the soul," Pablo Neruda said. Among the most lasting voices of the most tumultuous (in his own words, "the saddest") century, a witness and a chronicler of its most decisive events, he is the author of more than thirty-five books of poetry and one of Latin America's most revered writers, the emblem of the engaged poet, an artist whose heart, always with the people, is literally consumed by passion. His work, oscillating from epic meditations on politics and history to intimate reflections on animals, food, and ...

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Overview

"Laughter is the language of the soul," Pablo Neruda said. Among the most lasting voices of the most tumultuous (in his own words, "the saddest") century, a witness and a chronicler of its most decisive events, he is the author of more than thirty-five books of poetry and one of Latin America's most revered writers, the emblem of the engaged poet, an artist whose heart, always with the people, is literally consumed by passion. His work, oscillating from epic meditations on politics and history to intimate reflections on animals, food, and everyday objects, is filled with humor and affection.

This bilingual selection of more than fifty of Neruda's best poems, edited and with an introduction by the distinguished Latin American scholar Ilan Stavans and brilliantly translated by an array of well-known poets, also includes some poems previously unavailable in English. I Explain a Few Things distills the poet's brilliance to its most essential and illuminates Neruda's commitment to using the pen as a calibrator for his age.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Poetry of Pablo Neruda:

"There is something about Neruda—about the way he glorifies experience, about the spontaneity and directness of his passion—that sets him apart from other poets . . . He is among the small group of last century's great poets." —Mark Strand, The New Yorker

"The most comprehensive single volume in English of a marvelous, inexhaustible and humane Latin-American poet, one of the 20th century's radiant lights." —Edward Hirsch, The Washington Post Book World, "Highly Recommended Poetry Books of 2003"

Publishers Weekly

Perhaps the most popular modern poet in the world, the Chilean-born Neruda (1904-1973) won the Nobel Prize for an enormous body of verse that includes introspective lyrics of love and lust; sinuously enthusiastic "elemental odes" to artichokes, watermelon, salt, Walt Whitman and the human eye; declamations in favor of the labor movement, the Communist Party and the working people of any nation; and involuted late poems of self-doubt. Perhaps no serious writer of verse since Whitman has combined so much scholarly attention with so much enthusiasm in a broad international public: unlike some Latin American peers to whom he paid homage, Neruda even at his most ambitious remained clear in his passions. Memoirist, critic and translator Stavans has culled this useful portable volume, with its facing-page English and Spanish from his far larger (1,040 pages) Poetry of Pablo Neruda(2003), while adding a few translations not included there: translators include Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin and Stavans himself. A particular attraction is Scottish poet Alastair Reid's version of "Autumn Testament," Neruda's mid-career retrospect: "I've been a great flowing river," the poet asserts, "with hard ringing stones, with clear night-noises,/ with dark day-songs." (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374260798
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/2/2007
  • Edition description: Bilingual
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 346,846
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 7.71 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-73) was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971. His books include Residence on Earth, Canto General, Extravagaria, and Isla Negra. Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College.

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

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