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Pablo Neruda

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English Literature

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), the prolific Chilean poet, is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential Latin American poets of the twentieth century. His life as a poet saw many twists and turns with diplomatic appointments, exile, and a Noble Prize for Literature in 1971.

Pablo Neruda is a pen name. Neruda adopted the pen name to distance himself from his father who disapproved of his writing. Word has it Neruda chose the name after either the Czech poet Jan Neruda or the Violinist Wilma Neruda.

Pablo Neruda: Biography and Facts

On July 12, 1904, Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto, also known as Pablo Neruda, was born in Parral, a town located in Southern Chile, to Jose del Carmen Reyes and Rosa Neftali Basoalto Opazo. Neruda's mother died two months after his birth. By the age of ten Neruda had already composed his first poem and at the age of 13 published his first work Enthusiasm and Perseverance (1917) in the newspaper La Manana. Neruda's father highly disapproved of his interest in writing, but Neruda was encouraged by Gabriela Mistral to write.

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) was the first Latin American woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. Mistral was a headmistress at the girl's school associated with Neruda's high school. She had a great influence over the beginning of his career, introducing him to Russian Literature and encouraging him to write.

Pablo Neruda, Santiago/Pablo Neruda poems, StudySmarterChile, the country Neruda is from, Pixabay

In his early career, between 1918 and the mid-1920s, Neruda published many poems and essays in local magazines under the name Neftali Reyes. By the mid-1920s, he adopted his pen name, then changed it legally in 1946. In 1921, Pablo attended the Universidad de Chile in Santiago.

Neruda intended to become a French teacher, but quickly realized he was not passionate about it. Rather, he began to work on his poetry and he published his first book of verse, Crepusculario, in 1923. The following year he published the collection of poems that would gain him critical acclaim, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924).

When Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair was first published it was criticized for its erotic content. However, nearly 100 years after its publication, the collection of poems has sold millions of copies and is considered one of the best-selling Spanish poetry.

In 1927, due to financial troubles, Neruda undertook an honorary consulship in Burma and did diplomatic work in Ceylon, Java, and Singapore. There he began to experiment with poetry. These experiments yielded two volumes of Residence of Earth (1933, 1935). Around this time he married his first wife, Marijke Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang, also known as Maruca.

When Neruda finally returned to Chile, he was given diplomatic positions in Argentina and Spain. While in Spain, Neruda began an influential friendship with many famous poets, including Federico Garcia Lorca. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 and his friend Lorca was murdered, he felt a duty to support the Republican movement of Spain against the Nationalists. He wrote 'Espana en el Corazon' (1937), which highlighted the horror he felt during the war.

Neruda was appointed consul for Spanish emigration in 1939 while he was living in France. As consul, Neruda persuaded Chile's president, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, to offer asylum to exiled Spaniards living in horrific conditions in French internment camps. Neruda is credited with saving hundreds of lives.

Neruda returned to Chile in 1943 and by 1945 was elected a senator of the Republic. He joined the Communist party and protested against Chilean president Gonzales Videla. Neruda had once campaigned on behalf of Videla during the 1946 Presidential elections. However, Videla soon turned on Communism and outlawed it.

Neruda spoke out against Videla in a speech titled Yo acuso in 1948, which caused him to remain in hiding until 1949. In 1949, he was able to flee to Argentina on horseback. Neruda lived in exile until 1952 and published many works detailing his experiences with politics, exile, and his love for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia.

In 1952, Neruda returned to Chile, then under a failing government. He was in the favor of the presidential candidate Salvador Allende, who belonged to the Chilean Socialist Party. Neruda was highly influential and was regarded as a world-famous poet whose work was translated into many languages. In 1970, Neruda was nominated for presidential candidacy but gave it up to support Allende, who won.

Neruda was appointed as an ambassador to France between 1970 and 1972. In 1971, Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He returned to Chile due to failing health and in 1973 witnessed the coup d'état of Allende led by General Augusto Pinochet. On September 23, 1973, Neruda was reported to be dying from heart failure, but many reports claim that Neruda believed he was being killed by a doctor under the orders of Pinochet.

In 2015, a court investigation into Neruda's death was carried out. They came to the conclusion that Neruda was injected or given something orally resulting in his death six and a half hours later. This indicated that he may have been murdered by Pinochet. In 2019, further investigations revealed that Neruda may have died due to a laboratory-modified deadly bacteria. However, some scientists claim Neruda died of a heart attack in conjunction with prostate cancer.

Pablo Neruda: Books and Poems

Throughout his lifetime, Neruda wrote many poetry books and thousands of poems. The poetry of Neruda varies in theme and meaning. His poems explore love, loneliness, destruction, and desire. They can also be quite political, focusing on communism, alienation, oppression, and society.

Pablo Neruda, poetry book, StudySmarterYou can easily find Neruda's poetry in a love poem anthology, freepik.

Pablo Neruda's Books with Quotes

Below are five of Neruda's volumes of poetry:

Libro de las Preguntas (The Book of Questions), 1973

One of his most loved collections of poems, Libro de las Preguntas contains 316 questions with no answers. This technique forces the reader to explore imagination and intuition. It is a surrealist work, encouraging the reader to release any attachment to answers they may never get.

Why do trees conceal the splendor of their roots?" (Poem III, Stanza 2)

Viente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair),1924)

Neruda published Viente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada at only 19, and it won him immediate critical acclaim. The book of 20 poems and one song focuses on the passion and sensuality of an affair with two women that slowly fades into sadness and detachment. To date, Viente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada has sold over 20 million copies.

Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.I love you still among these cold things.Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vesselsthat cross the sea towards no arrival" ('Here I Love You', Stanza 4)

Cien Sonetos de Amor (100 Love Sonnets) (1959)

In this book of poems containing 100 sonnets, Neruda explores the human soul and the power and celebration of love. It was written for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, whom he deeply loved. The poems are separated into the four stages of daytime: morning, afternoon, evening, and night.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams" (Sonnet XVII, Stanza 3)

Odas Elementales (Elemental Odes), 1954

Odas Elementales is a series of odes that describe everyday objects such as tomatoes or socks in a direct, simple, and humorous way. Neruda was able to take these everyday objects and find the beauty within them, sometimes even hinting at his political beliefs. This book of odes was highly successful, especially for its use of street language.

The streetfilled with tomatoes,midday,summer,light ishalvedlikeatomato,its juicerunsthrough the streets" ('Ode to Tomatoes', Lines 1-12)

Los versos del Capitan (The Captain's Verses), 1952

Los Versos del Capitan is a book of love poems written by Neruda to his lover Matilde Urrutia. It was written during his exile on the island of Capri and captures the passion, sensuality, and ecstatic energy of new love. It is incredibly intimate and shows Neruda's devotion to Matilde.

Take bread away from me, if you wish,

take air away, but

do not take from me your laughter" ('Your Laughter', Stanza 1)

Pablo Neruda's Poems

Neruda wrote thousands of poems. Here is a selection of poems considered to be his best:

  • 'Soneto LXVI: I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You' (1959)

  • 'Tu risa' (Your Laughter) (1952)

  • 'Galope Muerto' (Dead Gallop) (1935)

  • 'Si tu me olvidas' (If You Forget Me) (1952)

  • 'Alturas de Machu Picchu' (The Heights of Machu Picchu) (1950)

  • 'Sonnet XVII' (1959)

Pablo Neruda: Writing Style

Pablo Neruda's poetry spans from a Romantic style in his early career to a more Surrealist style later in his career. His work was also deeply embedded with his political beliefs.

His first book of poetry, Crepusculario (1923), was written in a style known as Modernismo, or Symbolist poetry.

Symbolist Poetry (Modernismo)— Poetry that contained imagery that alluded to religious, mystic, and esoteric themes.

The book begins in traditional poetic form and gradually gravitates towards free verse. The poems are set against a pastoral backdrop and allude to Greco-Roman mythological themes. Along with the name, which refers to the twilight, Neruda was remarking that a new age is dawning upon literature.His second poetry book, Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion deseperada, is written in the Romantic style. The Romantic style focuses on the feelings and intuition of the speaker as well as the subjective opinions they hold. In this book of poetry, Neruda explores the feelings involved in a passionate love affair that does not last. Between these two styles, Neruda expertly used many literary devices such as metaphors and imagery to create a memorable, vivid setting and mental image. While Neruda was working as a diplomat, we see his writing style become more experimental. He doesn't use traditional forms of syntax or rhyme and begins to create poems that are mysterious, awe-inspiring, and chaotic. With his poem Residencia en la tierra (1933) we begin to see Neruda's writing influenced by Surrealism.

Surrealism: a literary and artistic movement that sought to create dream-like scenes that include a bizarre combination of ordinary objects and illogical juxtapositions.

Residencia en la tierra follows the theme of universal decay. Neruda used imagery to blend reality and fantasy, forcing the reader to break free from their conscious mind.

There is an extensive country in the sky

with the superstitious carpets of the rainbow

and with vesperal vegetation ;

towards there I journey, not without a certain fatigue,

treading an earth disturbed by rather fresh tombs,

I dream among those plants of tangled vegetation" ('Dream Horse', Stanza 3)

In this excerpt from the poem 'Dream Horse', found in Residencia en la tierra, we can see Neruda's influence under Surrealism. The poem is mysterious and full of imagery that causes a chaotic mix in the reader's mind combining everyday objects such as the sky and vegetation with mystical elements.

Neruda also wrote a poem in the Historical Epic genre called Canto General (1950), which focused on the history of Latin America. In it, Neruda uses powerful imagery to inspire emotions of pride and celebration in the reader for Latin America's pre-Columbian history.

Pablo Neruda - Key takeaways

  • Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was a Chilean poet and diplomat who is considered to be one of the most influential Latin American poets of the 20th century.
  • Neruda was incredibly prolific, writing many poetry books that range in themes from love, loneliness, destruction, and desire to communism, alienation, oppression, and society.
  • Neruda began his career writing in the Romantic style and transitioned into writing Surrealist-inspired poetry later in his career.
  • Neruda was involved in politics for the majority of his life. He helped Spanish exiles find refuge in Chile after the Spanish Civil War, was a member of the communist party, and supported Salvador Allende, Chile's first Socialist president.
  • Neruda died in 1973. Official reports state he died of heart failure due to prostate cancer but some believe he was murdered under the orders of Pinochet.

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was a Chilean poet and diplomat. 

Pablo Neruda changed his name from Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto to Pablo Neruda in 1946.

Pablo Neruda is known for his books of poetry that explore themes such as love, loneliness, desperation, oppression, communism, and society. 

Pablo Neruda wrote over 3,000 pages worth of poems. 

Pablo Neruda belonged to the Romantic literary movement and the Surrealist literary movement.

Final Pablo Neruda Quiz

Question

When was 'If You Forget Me' Published?

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Answer

1952

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Who wrote 'If You Forget Me'?

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Answer

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda 

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Who was the poem 'If You Forget Me' by Pablo Neruda written for?

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Answer

Either to Neruda's mistress, Matilde Urrutia or to Chile, while he was in political exile from his native country.  

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Question

What kind of poem is 'If You Forget Me' by Pablo Neruda ?


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Answer


Free Verse Poem 


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How many stanzas are there in Pablo Neruda's 'If You Forget Me'?

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There are 6 stanzas. 

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What is the tone of the poem 'If You Forget Me' by Pablo Neruda?


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Warning and Sincere

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What kind of figurative language is found throughout 'If You Forget Me' by Pablo Neruda?

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Metaphors, enjambment, imagery, and personification. 

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What is an example of a metaphor found in Neruda's poem 'If You Forget Me'?

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An example of a metaphor can be found at the end of Stanza 2 when Neruda compares the speaker's all-encompassing love for his lover to little boats sailing to isles. 

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What is one reason Neruda uses enjambment in the poem 'If You Forget Me'?

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To create flow and smoothness; To emphasize certain words; To create transitions between the tones of the stanzas

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Why does Neruda use imagery in his poem?

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Neruda uses imagery to create a vivid, imaginative, and memorable setting for the poem. 

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What are examples of imagery from the poem 'If You Forget Me'?

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"Crystal moon" and "red branch" (Line 5)

"slow autumn" (line 6)

"wrinkled body of the log" (Line 10)

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What is an example of personification from the poem "If You Forget Me'?

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If each day a flower 

climbs up to your lips to seek me..." (Lines 40-41).

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What is the central theme of Pablo Neruda's 'If You Forget Me'?

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Love and Loss

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When was Pablo Neruda born?

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1904

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Where was Pablo Neruda born?

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Parral, Chile

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Why did Pablo Neruda change his name?

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Neruda's father disapproved of his choice to be a writer so Neruda changed his name to distance himself from his father. 

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When did Neruda's political career begin?

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In 1927 with an honorary consulship in Burma. 

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Which side did Pablo Neruda support during the Spanish Civil War?

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The Republican movement

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Why was Neruda forced into exile from Chile?

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Neruda was a member of the communist party and protested against the Chilean president Gonzales Videla.

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What year did Neruda win the Nobel Prize for Literature? 


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1971

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When did Neruda die?

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1973

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What themes does Neruda explore in his poetry?

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His poems explore love, loneliness, destruction, and desire. They can also be quite political, focusing on communism, alienation, oppression, and society.  

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What literary movements did Neruda belong to throughtout his lifetime?

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Romantic style, Symbolist Poetry (Modernismo), and Surrealism

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When did Neruda's writing begin to lean more towards Surrealism?

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During the time Neruda worked as a diplomat (1930s).

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Which of Neruda's poetry books is the first time we see surrealism influence his writing?

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Residencia en la tierra (1933)

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Which of Neruda's poetry books is considered a Historical Epic?

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Answer

Canto General (1950)

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Who were Neruda's poetry books, Cien Sonetos de Amor (100 Love Sonnets) (1959) and Los versos del Capitan (The Captain's Verses) (1952) written about?

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Answer

His lover and third wife, Matilde Urrutia

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What was the principle idea behind Neruda's Odas Elementales (Elemental Odes) (1954)?

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Answer

Neruda wanted to take everyday objects and find the beauty within them. 

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