Exactly 50 years ago, on October 21, 1971, the Swedish Academy announced the Nobel Prize for Literature for the Chilean Pablo Neruda “for being the author of a poem that, with the action of an elemental force, gives life to destiny and dreams of a continent.
Her word, like her compatriot Gabriela Mistral -the first Nobel Prize for Literature on the continent in 1945- did, had a great commitment to the social and revolutionary processes of her time, both in her country and throughout America and Spain.
Born in 1905 in southern Chile and raised in a modest family, Neftalí Reyes -his original name- began his career as a poet early, first with a self-centered voice and highly influenced by romanticism.
Over time, his forms opened up to other currents and his maturity and vital experience led him to sing to the people, especially after what he witnessed in Spain, that of before the Civil War and the Franco regime.
“Neruda in his youth was rather an anarchist, he had no fixed ideology and was critical of everything he saw, like any young man with deep sensitivity. The fall of Madrid was a tremendous blow to him, as much as the military coup in Chile”, The executive director of the Pablo Neruda Foundation, Fernando Saez, told Efe.
He, he added, “lived through a republican Spain, in which poets took to the streets, where there was cultural effervescence, as here with former president Salvador Allende”, overthrown by a coup in 1973.
Just a few days later and one day before traveling to Mexico to lead and organize the opposition to Augusto Pinochet from that country, Neruda died in a capital hospital, although his family maintains that he was poisoned by agents of the dictatorship and promoted the exhumation of his bones in 2013.
In 2017, a team of experts and experts assured that the poet did not die of prostate cancer, despite the fact that he suffered from this disease, but that they did not know the specific cause of death.
CURRENT VALIDITY AND FEMINIST QUESTIONING
There is no bookstore in the world where there are no copies of “Crespuculario”, “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair” or the acclaimed “Canto General”. The work of Neruda, one of the most important poets of the 20th century, has been translated into more than 45 languages and “is still being read” today.
“That accounts not only for the popularity, but also for the way in which he touched on different aspects of human life, from the simplest to the most complex of the soul, installing them in a poetry that has survived too long. Few poets have that possibility”, added the director of the foundation, during a tour of “La Chascona”, the poet’s house in Santiago, now converted into a museum.
In recent times, however, both the figure and the work of the former diplomat, senator and even presidential candidate have been subject to critical review from the powerful Chilean feminist movement.
For the academic of the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities of the University of Chile, Soledad Falabella, Neruda is a “patriarchal” poet “of the last century”, in whose work “women do not exist as subjects” and “serve to prop up the ego and the masculinity of ‘Man’, with capital letters”.
An example of this is her famous verse “I like you when you are silent because you are absent”, which was replicated in the last massive feminist demonstrations that have shaken Chile, in which banners could be read with the slogan: “Neruda, shut up! your!”.
“In his imaginary, women are objects of pleasure, passive entities at the disposal of the action and the desire of Man. It is not uncommon then that in his confessions he recounts episodes where he is the protagonist of gender and sexual violence. In his world that is not only possible, but it’s natural,” Falabella said.
For her part, the full professor at the University of Chile and founder of the Center for Gender and Culture, Remy Oyarzún, told Efe that one of the “beautiful things about poetry is that it is not the poet who has the last word, but the readers.”
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The Nobel to Chilean Neruda, who gave “dreams to the continent”, turns 50