THE CONTROVERSIAL AND NOBEL PRIZE WINNER CHILEAN POET-DIPLOMAT: PABLO NERUDA

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    TANUJ BANSAL.

    From surrealist poems to most passionate love poetry, from historical epics to overtly political manifestos, from being an exiled diplomat to being a novel prize in literature, Pablo Neruda was one the most controversial figures of Chile and one of the greatest poets of 20th century. Neruda was born on 12 July, 1904 in Parral to his father Jose del Carmen Reyes Morales who was railroad worker and his mother Rosa Neftali Basoalto Opazo who was teacher who died shortly after his birth. He was born named as Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto. He was an atheist. He composed his first poem in 1914 and became a poet at the age of just 13 years and wrote in various styles. His father opposed his son’s interest in writing and literature, but he received encouragement from other including future Nobel prize winner Gabriela Mistral, who headed the local school. On 18 July, 1917, he published his first work, an essay titled “Entusiasmo y perservancia” in the local daily newspaper La Manana and signed it Neftali Reyes. From 1918 to mid-1920, he published number of poems including “Mis Ojos” and essays in local magazine as Neftali Reyes. In 1919, he participated in the literary contest Juegos Florales Del Maule and won third place for his poem “Communal ideal” or “Nocturno ideal”. By mid-1920s, when he adopted the pseudonym Pablo Neruda, he was published author of poems, prose and journalism. He is thought to have derived his pen name from the Czech poet Jan Neruda, though other sources say the true inspiration was Moravian violinist Wilma Neruda, which name appears in Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel A Study in Scarlet. The young poet’s intention in publishing under a pseudonym was to avoid his father’s disapproval of his poems. In 1921, Neruda moved to Santiago to study French at the Universidad de Chile, with the intention of becoming a teacher. He published his one of the most successful works in 1924, Veinte Poemas de amor y una cancion desespereda (Twenty Love Poems and A Desperate Song). Which was as controversial as it was critically acclaimed because of its eroticism by the author of such young age. Although even after approximately 100 years, its bestselling poetry book in Spanish Language. By the age of 20, Neruda had achieved international reputation as a Poet but still faced poverty. In December of 1930, he met and married his first wife Marijke Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang also known as Maruca and had his only daughter with her, Malva Marina Reyes, born in Madrid in 1934. She had several health problems and died in 1943 when she was just 8 years old having spent most of her short life with a foster family in Netherlands when Neruda ignored and abandoned her, forcing her mother to take up what jobs she could, half the time when holland was under Nazi occupation and in their mentality birth defects were denoted as genetic inferiority at best. His marriage broke down with Maruca and eventually got divorced in Mexico in 1943 and he started living with Dalia Del Carril in France and married her shortly after his divorce.

    When Spain engulfed into the civil war, Neruda became intensely politicized for the first time and became an ardent Communist and the contributing factors were the radical leftist political ideology of his friend and the execution of Garcia Lorca by the forces loyal to dictator Francisco Franco became the most important catalyst. Through his speeches and writings, Neruda threw his support behind the Spanish Republic. He lost his post as a consul due to his political militancy. After the election of Pedro Aguirra Cerda as President of Chile in 1938, Neruda was appointed special consul for immigrants in Paris. There he was responsible from transporting 2,000 Spanish refugees who had been housed by the French in squalid camps to Chile in old ship called Winnipeg, he called this mission as the noblest mission he ever undertook. Neruda’s next diplomatic post was as a consul general in Mexico City from 1940 to 1943, the time when he married Del Carril and got information that his only daughter died at the age 8 in Occupied Netherlands. In, 1943 he returned to Chile. Neruda admired Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin and was awarded Stalin Peace Award in 1952. On 4 March, 1945, Neruda was also elected as a Communist senator four months before joining Communist party of Chile. After a few weeks of his speech “Yo acuso” in 1948, he was threatened with arrest and was gone into hiding and his wife and him were smuggled from house to house by his supporters and admirers, in 1949, he fled over the Lilpela Pass to Argentina on horseback. Once out of Chile, he spent his next three years in exile.

    By august in 1952, he came back to Chile and spend his rest of life there with the Chilean singer Matilde Urrutia who was hired back in late 1949 to care of him in Mexico when he had serious bout of Phlebitis that became an affair that would years later in 1966 would culminate in marriage. His final diplomatic post was being appointed as Chilean ambassador to France from 1970 to 1972. In 1971, Neruda was awarded with Nobel prize in literature. It is originally reported that Neruda died of heart failure on the evening of 23 September 1973 but according to the investigation ordered by Chilean judge, it is believed that Neruda was poisoned and murdered by Pinochet regime as he was about go into exile and lead the government from there.    

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