Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda was born Richardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto on July 12, 1904.  A Chilean poet, he was raised by his father after his mother died when he was a baby.  He started writing poetry at age ten and moved to Santiago to complete a degree in French literature, but withdrew shortly after to pursue his passion for writing poetry.  It was in Santiago that he began publishing literary works in 1921.  Neruda sold his possessions in order to publish his first book Crepusculario with his own money.  Among his other poetry at the time, his most famous work, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), was published in 1924, making him a celebrity among Chilean poets.

A literary diplomat, he became an honorary consul in 1926, taking him to several Asian countries, where he wrote Residencia en la tierra.  Subsequently, he was consul to Spain, Argentina, and Mexico, eventually returning to Chile in 1943, where he immersed himself in politics with the same fervor and dedication he did his poems.  In 1945, he became a Senator of Chile, but as a member of the Communist party, he was forced into hiding when Chile turned to the right. Although it was a difficult period, it proved fruitful for his writing, as the poet penned Canto General, an epic poem about America, in 1950.  He traveled through Europe until the order to arrest communists was lifted and then returned to Chile, where he continued writing for the next two decades.  Neruda’s work addressed both personal and political issues and led to his branding as the “people’s poet.”  He received many honors during his career, winning the Lenin Prize for Peace and Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, followed by the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.  Although a cancer diagnoses ended his diplomatic career and eventually took his life, he is still regarded today as the greatest Latin-American poet.  He died September 23, 1973.