Pablo Neruda - Brief Bio:
Politics and Poetry

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) is arguably the most influential poet in the Spanish language. Born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in southern Chile to a teacher and a railroad foreman, the poet took on the name of a nineteenth-century Czech writer, Jan Neruda, in his teens, to conceal his writing pursuits from his disapproving father. He first published poetry in a magazine at age fourteen. In 1921, he moved from the countryside to Santiago, "with his head 'filled with books, dreams, and poems buzzing around like bees.'" (Roman, 33) By 1923, he had published his first book of poetry. His life as a starving poet changed when a friend with political connections got Neruda named as consul to Rangoon, just one site in a string of consulates before he returned to Chile in 1932. Despite growing popularity as a poet, he could not make a living at writing and so went back to consul work in Buenos Aires and then Madrid. In Madrid, Neruda sympathized with the Spanish people, Republicans, attempting to hold fast against the Fascists who were supported by Hitler and Mussolini. His loyalty to one side of the conflict got him removed from Madrid and placed in Paris where ultimately he was able to aid 2,000 Spanish refugees in reaching Chile. Much of Neruda's poetry reflected his sympathy for the people who fought fascism and lost. With the German invasion of Poland in 1940, Neruda was appointed consul general of Mexico where he continued the struggle for social justice. Disillusioned with Mexico's political conflicts, he returned home in 1943 and aligned himself with the Communists who impressed him as a solution to the struggle for social reform in Latin America. Neruda's tolerance for Communism was not looked upon with favor and he was forced into exile for a number of years eventually returning to Chile with amnesty, running for the presidency and then dropping out to support Salvador Allende's campaign. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 and died in Santiago in 1973, only days after Allende's death and the overthrow of the Popular Unity government.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Neruda explained the connection between politics and poetry: "In the midst of the arena of America's struggles I saw that my human task was none other than to join the extensive forces of the organized masses of the people, to join with life and soul, with suffering and hope, but it is only from this great popular stream that the necessary changes can arise for writers and for nations . . . Lastly, I wish to say to the people of good will, to the workers, to the poets, that the whole future has been expressed in this line by Rimbaud: 'Only with a burning patience can we conquer the splendid City, which will give light, justice, and dignity to all mankind.' "

Additional bios:

Nobel e-musuem Biography of Palo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) - Original name Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto -


Il Postino. (The Postman). Dir. Michael Radford. Cecchi Gori Group - Miramax and Buena Vista Home Video, 1995.

Neruda, Pablo. The Book of Questions. Trans. William O'Daly. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1991.

Neruda, Pablo. Isla Negra, a Notebook. Trans. Alastair Reid. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1981.

Neruda, Pablo. Memoirs. Trans. Hardie St. Martin. New York: Penguin Books, 1977.

Neruda, Pablo. Odes to Common Things. Trans. Ken Krabbenhoft. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994.

Neruda, Pablo. Odes to Opposites. Trans. Ken Krabbenhoft. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1995.

Neruda, Pablo. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993.

Poirot, Luis. Absence and Presence. Trans. Alastair Reid. New York: Norton and Co., 1990.

Roman, Joseph. Hispanics of Achievement: Pablo Neruda. New York: Chelsea House, 1992.

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