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Pablo Neruda

Author, Spanish
Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. He published his first volume of poetry under the pseudonym “Pablo Neruda” (derived from the Czech poet Jan Neruda) to avoid conflict with his family, who disapproved of his occupation. The following year, he found a publisher for Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair). The book made a celebrity of Neruda, who gave up his studies at the age of twenty to devote himself to his craft. In 1927, Neruda began his long career as a diplomat in the Latin American tradition of honoring poets with diplomatic assignments. After several assignments abroad, he returned to Chile in 1943, was elected to the Senate, and joined the Communist Party. When the Chilean government moved to the right, they declared communism illegal and Neruda went into hiding. During those years he wrote and published Canto general (1950). In 1952 the government withdrew the order to arrest leftist writers and political figures, and Neruda returned to Chile and, for the next twenty-one years, he continued a career that integrated private and public concerns and became known as the people’s poet. During this time, Neruda received numerous prestigious awards, including the International Peace Prize in 1950, the Lenin Peace Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Diagnosed with cancer while serving a two-year term as ambassador to France, Neruda resigned his position, ending his diplomatic career. On September 23, 1973, just twelve days after the defeat of Chile’s democratic regime, the man widely regarded as the greatest Latin American poet since Darío died in Santiago, Chile.