Neruda, Pablo [key], 1904–73, Chilean poet, diplomat, and Communist leader. He changed his original name, Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, so that his railroad-worker father would not discover that he was a poet. Neruda's highly personal poetry brought him enormous acclaim. After 1927 he was in consular service in East Asia, Argentina, Mexico, and Europe. A surrealist, Neruda revitalized everyday expressions and employed bold metaphors in free verse. His evocative poems are filled with grief and despair and bespeak a quest for simplicity. They celebrate the dramatic Chilean landscape and rage against the exploitation of the indigenous people. In his writings and during his political career as a leader of the Chilean Communist party (which he joined in 1945) and as a diplomat, Neruda exerted a wide influence in Latin America. His many volumes of poetry include Crepusculario [twilight book] (1919, his first book), Twenty Love Poems and One Song of Despair (1924, tr. 1969), the surrealistic Residence on Earth and Other Poems (1933, tr. 1946), Canto general (1950), Elemental Odes (1954, tr. 1961), Nuevas odas elementales [new elemental odes] (1955), A New Decade: 1958–1967 (tr. 1969), Extravagaria (1958, tr. 1974), New Poems: 1968–1970 (tr. 1972), and Toward the Splendid City (tr. 1974). Neruda was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature during his service as Chilean ambassador to France. Neruda died in Chile shortly after the 1973 military coup. Later investigators concluded (2015, 2017) that the stated cause of his death, complications from prostate cancer, was not accurate, and that he may have been killed while in the hospital.
See his Early Poems (tr. 1969), Selected Poems (tr. 1970), and The Poetry of Pablo Neruda (2003); P. Neruda et al., Pablo Neruda and Nicanor Parra Face to Face (tr. 1997).
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