Childhood & Early Life
Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (Pablo Neruda) was born in Parral, Chile. His father worked with the railroad whereas his mother was a teacher, who died shortly after his birth.
When he was a teenager, he began writing a number of poems and articles that were first published in the daily, ‘La Manana’.
In 1920, he began writing for the ‘Selva Austral’ under the pseudonym, Pablo Neruda, a name he derived from the name of the Czech poet, Jan Neruda.
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In 1923, he sold all of his belongings to back the publication of his first book, ‘Crepusculario’ (Book of Twilights) under his penname. He used the alias in order to evade skirmishes with his family, who objected to making writing his occupation.
He also published a collection of love poems that became controversial for its amatory themes titled, ‘Viente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada’ (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), in 1924. A second edition was also published much later. By the age of 20, he had established himself as a sound poet, but he was facing extreme poverty.
In 1926, ‘Tentativa del hombre infinito’ (The trying of infinite man) and ‘Tentativa y su esperanza’ (The inhabitant and his hope); a collection and a novel, respectively, were published.
Out of financial anxiety, he took up honorary consulship in Rangoon, which was then a part of Burma, and isolated himself from people where he experimented with different kinds of poetry.
In 1933, he penned the first of the three volumes of a poetry collection, ‘Residencia En La Tierra’ (Residence on Earth), which would later spawn two more volumes.
After he returned to Chile, he served a number of diplomatic posts and at the inception of the civil war, he became extremely involved with politics. In order to show his support for the Republican side, he voiced his thoughts and his support in the collection, ‘Espa�a en el coraz�n’ (Spain in the Heart), in 1938.
After the election in 1938, he was appointed as superior consul for Spanish immigration in Paris. Here, he was assigned the task of making sure he sent Spanish refugees back to Chile in a boat called, ‘Winnipeg’.
From 1940 to 1943, he was appointed as Consul General in Mexico City. In 1943, he returned to Chile and visited the famous Machu Picchu, which inspired an enormous twelve-part poem titled, ‘Alturas de Macchu Picchu’.
During World War II, he grew to admire Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin, who was responsible in defeating Nazi Germany. He voiced his admiration for the leader in poems like ‘Canto a Stalingrado’ and ‘Nuevo canto de amor a Stalingrado’, written between 1942 and 1943.
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On March 4, 1945, he was elected as senator for the Communist party for the provinces of Antofagasta and Tarapaca. The following year, he was made campaign manager by the Radical Party presidential nominee, Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, whom he later grew to criticize.
Fearing capture, he went into hiding and was removed from his post on September, 1948 and the Communist Party was banned altogether. His secretive life finally ended the next year, where he fled from Chile and spent the next three years in exile, in Buenos Aires.
During this time, he travelled extensively around Europe, Asia and the Soviet Union. From 1950 to 1952, he authored the famous ‘Canto General’, which contains over 231 poems and also published ‘Los versos del Capit�n’, under an anonymous name.
Towards the end of 1952, he got back to Chile and by this time, was already enjoying the worldwide fame as a poet. Around fourteen years later, he was invited for the International PEN conference in New York City.
In 1970, he was nominated as a candidate for the Chilean presidency, but he instead let Salvador Allende win the elections. Shortly after Allende was made president, Neruda was appointed as the Chilean ambassador to France.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married a bank employee, Maryka Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang, while he worked a shift in Java. He later separated from his wife and started an affair and married a woman, 20 years his senior called, Delia del Carril.
A Chilean singer, Matilde Urrutia was hired to care for him during his exile, and he started having an affair with her. This eventually culminated in marriage and she even became his ‘muse’ for one of his works.
After returning to Chile from exile, he got back with his wife, del Carril, but the marriage began to disintegrate. She eventually learned of his affair with Urrutia and Neruda went back to Urrutia, with whom he would live for the rest of his life.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he later died of heart failure in the 1973. Following his death, his autobiography, ‘I Confess I have Lived’ was published and Urrutia’s memoir titled, ‘My Life with Pablo Neruda’was published in the 1980s.
He has been mentioned in popular culture in films, literature and music. These include mentions of his name or his works in movies like ‘Pablo Neruda: The Poet’s Calling’, the book, ‘El caso Neruda’ or in albums like, ‘The Pretender’ and ‘Neruda Songs’. He also had three houses in Chile, all of which have been made into public museums.