Editor's Introduction: Pablo Neruda was one of Latin America's most loved poets and one of ours. Before going to the BBC article about his body being exhumed for a forensic examination to know whether or not he was murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, let us take a look at one of many biographies written of him and one of his poems. - Axis of Logic
Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after Czech poet Jan Neruda.
Neruda wrote in a variety of styles such as erotically charged love poems as in his collection Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair, surrealist poems, historical epics, and overtly political manifestos. In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called him "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Neruda always wrote in green ink as it was his personal color of hope.
On July 15, 1945, at Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil, he read to 100,000 people in honor of Communist revolutionary leader Luís Carlos Prestes. During his lifetime, Neruda occupied many diplomatic positions and served a stint as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. When Conservative Chilean President González Videla outlawed communism in Chile in 1948, a warrant was issued for Neruda's arrest. Friends hid him for months in a house basement in the Chilean port of Valparaíso. Later, Neruda escaped into exile through a mountain pass near Maihue Lake into Argentina. Years later, Neruda was a close collaborator to socialist President Salvador Allende. When Neruda returned to Chile after his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Allende invited him to read at the Estadio Nacional before 70,000 people.
Neruda was hospitalized with cancer at the time of the Chilean coup d'état led by Augusto Pinochet. Three days after being hospitalized, Neruda died of heart failure. Already a legend in life, Neruda's death reverberated around the world. Pinochet had denied permission to transform Neruda's funeral into a public event. However, thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew and crowded the streets.
Axis of Columnist Arturo Rosales offers the following poem by Pablo Neruda noting that it was often referred to by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Note the last two lines...
A Song for Bolívar
Our father who art in the earth, in the water, in the air
of all our great and silent breadth,
all bears thy name, father, in our land:
thy name the sugarcane raises to the sweetness,
Bolivar tin has a Bolivar brilliance,
the Bolivar bird over the Bolivar volcano,
the potato, the saltpeter, the special shadows,
the currents, the veins of phosphoric stone,
all that is ours comes from thine extinguished life,
thy heritage was rivers, plains, bell towers,
thy heritage is this day our daily bread, father.
Thy little brave captain's corpse
has stretched to immensity its metallic form,
suddenly thy fingers spread out through the snow
and the southern fisher suddenly brings to light
thy smile, thy voice throbbing in the nets.
What color will be the rose that we lift next to thy heart?
Red will be the rose that remembers thy step.
How will the hands be that touch thine ashes?
Red will be the hands that in thine ashes are born.
And how is the seed of thy dead heart?
Red is the seed of thy living heart.
That is why there is today the circle of hands next to thee.
Next to my hand there is another and another next to it,
and still another, to the depths of the dark continent.
And another hand that thou didst not then know
comes also, Bolivar, to clasp thy hand
from Teruel, from Madrid, from the Jarama, from the Ebro,
from the prison, from the air, from the Spanish dead
arrives this red hand that is a daughter of thine.
Captain, fighter, where one mouth
shouts liberty, where one ear listens,
where one red soldier smashes a dark forehead,
where one freeman's laurel blossoms, where a new
banner is adorned with the blood of our illustrious dawn,
Bolivar, captain, thy face is seen.
Again amid powder and smoke thy sword comes to life.
Again thy banner has been embroidered with blood.
The evil ones attack thy seed again,
nailed to another cross is the son of man.
But toward hope thy shadow leads us,
the laurel and the light of thy red army
across the night of America look with thy look.
Thine eyes that watch beyond the seas,
beyond the peoples oppressed and wounded,
beyond the black burned cities,
thy voice is born anew, thy hand again is born:
thine army defends the sacred banners:
Liberty shakes the bloody bells,
and a terrible sound of grief precedes
the dawn reddened by the blood of man.
Liberator, a world of peace was born in thine arms.
Peace, bread, the wheat of thy blood were born,
from our young blood, come from thy blood,
will come peace, bread and wheat for the world that we
I came upon Bolivar, one long morning,
in Madrid, at the entrance to the Fifth Regiment.
Father, I said to him, are you, or are you not, or who are you?
And, looking at the Mountain Barracks, he said:
"I awake every hundred years when the people awake."
- Pablo Neruda
More selected poems by Pablo Neruda published on ...
Axis of Logic's Venerable Verse.
Pablo Neruda: Chile exhumes poet's body in murder probe
BBC. April 8, 2013
Members of Chile's Medical Legal Service have begun digging up the grave Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in Isla Negra
Forensic experts in Chile are exhuming the remains of the poet, Pablo Neruda, who died in 1973.
The Chilean authorities want to establish whether he died of cancer or was poisoned on the orders of Chile's military ruler, Gen Augusto Pinochet.
Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Prize winner, was a member of the Communist Party and a staunch supporter of ousted Chilean president Salvador Allende.
He died aged 69 just 12 days after Gen Pinochet's coup against Mr Allende.
The poet's family maintains that he died of advanced prostate cancer.
In 2011, Chile started investigating allegations by his former driver and personal assistant, Manuel Araya, that Mr Neruda had been poisoned.
Mr Araya says Pablo Neruda called him from hospital, and told him he was feeling sick after having been given an injection in the stomach.
Mr Araya's allegations are backed by the Chilean Communist Party, which says that Mr Neruda did not exhibit any of the symptoms associated with the advanced cancer he is reported to have died from.
Members of Chile's Medical Legal Service began to dig up Mr Neruda's grave on Sunday.
The poet is buried next to his wife Matile Urritia in the garden of their home on Chile's Pacific coast in Isla Negra, some 120 km (75 miles) west of the capital, Santiago.
A nephew of Mr Neruda, Rodolfo Reyes, said the family wanted to know the truth "regardless of whether he died of natural causes or was murdered".
Mr Neruda, best known for his love poems, was a close friend of the socialist president Salvador Allende.
After Mr Allende was toppled in the 11 September 1973 coup, the poet arranged to go into exile in Mexico, where he was expected to join the opposition to the military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.
Historian Fernando Marin is one of those who thinks Mr Neruda's plans to go abroad, and his sudden death, were linked.
"No one doubts that there was a plane waiting for Pablo Neruda at Pudahuel airport when he died," according to Mr Marin.
"He had a urinary infection and an adenoma (benign tumour) on his prostate according to the medical tests, but he wasn't going to die," Mr Marin told Reuters news agency.
More than 3,000 people were disappeared and killed under the 17 years of Gen Pinochet's military rule (1973-1990).