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Pablo Neruda is a famous Chilean poet, poesia in Spanish, politician, and diplomat who supported the Communist party and served in diplomatic posts around the world. Pablo Neruda’s most famous work is Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada, or Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.

Early Life, Education, and First Writings

Pablo Neruda was born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto on July 12, 1904, in Parral, Chile.[1] His father, José del Carmen Reyes Morales, worked for the railroad and his mother, Rosa Basoalto, worked as a local school teacher and died only two months after her son’s birth. Neruda’s father moved them to Temuco, Chile. There he married Trinidad Candia Marverde. José met her previously and she bore him a son named Rodolfo, nine years prior to their marriage.

Pablo Neruda published his first work at the young age of 13.

Neruda received encouragement from Gabriela Mistral, the future winner of the Nobel Prize and head of the local girls’ school. He published his first work on July 18, 1917, under the pen name Neftalí Reyes. The essay called “Entusiasmo y perseverancia,” appeared in the local newspaper La Mañana.[2] Neruda wrote for the Selva Austral, a literary journal, in 1920. He then started to use his pen name, Pablo Neruda, in honor of a poet from Czechoslovakia, Jan Neruda.[3]

Neruda moved to Santiago in 1921 to study teaching and French at the Universidad De Chile. He published his first book of poems in 1923 called Crepusculariom. In 1924, Pablo Neruda published one of his most famous works, Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada. The collection was met with controversy due to the erotic nature of the love poems, especially since Neruda was only 20 years old. Both collections received critical acclaim and have been translated into many different languages. He still remained extremely poor despite the success of his poems.[4]

Neruda, The Diplomat

In 1927, Pablo Neruda accepted an honorary Chilean consulship in Rangoon, Burma, a colony of British India at the time. He also worked in Batavia, Singapore, and Colonbo.[5] When serving in the Ceylon, Sri Lanka, post in 1929, Pablo Neruda raped a pariah caste, Tamil woman and wrote of the rape in his book I Confess That I Have Lived, published in 1974.[6] He published Residencia en la Tierra in 1933. The collection, considered a breakthrough for Neruda’s literary works, contained surrealistic and esoteric poems.[7]

In 1930, he met and married a Dutch woman named Maryka Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang. He returned with her to Chile before taking the consul role in Madrid. There he met writers like Peruvian Cesar Vallejo, Rafael Alberti, and Federico Garcia Lorca. In 1934, the couple bore Malva Marina Trinidad. He and Maryka grew apart and he started a relationship with an Argentinian woman who was 20 years older than him, Delia del Carril. [8]

The Spanish Civil War dominated all life in Spain and greatly influenced Neruda’s transition from private work to working with a sense of collective obligation. His radical leftist friends and the execution of Federico Garcia Lorca by pro-Franco supporters transformed Neruda into a Communist. His España en El Corazón, or Spain in My Heart, published in 1938, supported the Spanish Republic and lost him his consul position.[9] Neruda’s marriage ended in 1936 and he never saw his wife or child again.

In 1938, Pedro Aguirre Cerda was elected president and Neruda accepted an appointment as special consul in Paris aiding emigrants from Spain. He rescued 2,000 Spanish refugees living in French squalid camps by transporting them to Chile.[10] He then served as consul in Mexico City from 1940-1943. He married Del Carril and discovered his first daughter died at age eight in the Netherlands. Neruda secured a Chilean visa for David Alfaro Siquieros, a Mexican painter accused of conspiring in the failed assassination attempt on Leon Trotsky in 1940.[11]

Soviet Supporter and Communism

Pablo Neruda returned to Chile in 1943. He visited Machu Picchu, which inspired his later work Alturas de Macchu Picchu (1945). He returned with a sense of admiration for Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union for the defeat of the German Nazis. He addressed this in several poems and received the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953.

Pablo Neruda’s conversion to Communism and his belief in its principals remained strong until his death.

Neruda was elected on March 4, 1945, as a Communist Senator and joined the Community Party of Chile soon after.[12][13] In 1946, he acted as presidential campaign manager to Gabriel González Videla, the Radical Party’s candidate. Once in office, Videla turned against his Communist supporters with the Law of Permanent Defense of Democracy and the violent oppression of the October 1947 Lota miners’ strike.[14]

Exile and Return Chile

On January 6, 1948, Pablo Neruda gave a speech in Chile’s senate condemning González Videla. A few weeks later he went into hiding with his wife after arrest threats. They spent the next 13 months moving from one supporter’s house to another. The Chilean government removed him from office and banned the Communist Party in 1948. In March 1949, he fled to Argentina on horseback over the Andes Mountains. He took a trip to Mexico later that year and met Matilde Urrutia, a Chilean singer who cared for him when he took ill. They started an affair.

The González Videla government weakened in 1952 due to corruption, and the Chilean Socialist Party gained more ground. They wanted to nominate Salvador Allende again for the presidential election that year, and wanted Neruda there to support his campaign. Pablo Neruda returned to his homeland and his wife, Delia del Carril, in August. When he rejoined her in Chile, their marriage fell apart. Especially after she learned of Matilde Urrutia. They ended their marriage officially in 1955.[15]

Later Years, Death and Controversy

Pablo Neruda was nominated to be president of Chile in 1970, but supported the first democratically elected socialist, Salvador Allende, instead. He served as Chile’s Ambassador to France between 1970 and 1972, where he renegotiated the billions in debt owed by Chile to U.S and European banks. He returned to Chile due to poor health.

Neruda won the Nobel Prize in 1971. Only two years later, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. During the same time, the Allende government faced a coup. On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the socialist government with financial backing from the U.S. On September 23, 1973, Pablo Neruda died. Initially, doctors said of heart failure.[16] Later accounts given by both Matilde Urrutia and his driver caused the Chilean Interior Ministry to investigate the claims that doctors administered staphylococcus aureus via injection to Neruda, causing him to die only 6.5 hours later.[17]



Feinstein, A. (2004). Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life. New York: Bloomsbury USA.

Neruda, P., & Tarn, N. (2012). Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda. London: Vintage Classics.

The Nobel Foundation. (1971). Pablo Neruda - Biographical. Nobel Prizes and Laureates.[2]


  1. The Nobel Foundation, 1971
  2. Feinstein, 2004
  3. The Nobel Foundation, 1971
  4. Neruda & Tarn, 2012
  5. Neruda & Tarn, 2012
  6. Neruda, P. (2003). Confieso Que He Vivido (7th ed.). Barcelona: Debolsillo.
  7. The Nobel Foundation, 1971
  8. Feinstein, 2004
  9. Neruda & Tarn, 2012
  10. Feinstein, 2004
  11. Neruda & Tarn, 2012
  12. Feinstein, 2004
  13. Neruda & Tarn, 2012
  14. Feinstein, 2004
  15. Feinstein, 2004
  16. Neruda & Tarn, 2012
  17. Sabogal, W. M. (2015, November 6). Chile believes it “highly likely” that poet Neruda was murdered in 1973. El País.[1]

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