Pablo Larrain’s Neruda

Following the huge success of Jackie, Pablo Larraín’s next project is Neruda. The film is set in Santiago in 1948, at the outset of the cold war. Already renowned for his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda stood up in the senate (where he represented the Communist Party) and condemned Chile’s then-president, Gabriel González Videla, for turning against the party that had helped bring him to power and for behaving as thuggishly as Franco in Spain.

Then began what Neruda called “a year of blind rats”. For his courageous outspokenness, Neruda was deprived of his parliamentary immunity and forced into hiding, rushed from one safe house to another, sometimes in the middle of the night, to avoid being captured. Had he been, he might well have been taken to the concentration camp at Pisagua, in the northern Atacama desert (where the commandant was a certain Augusto Pinochet – 25 years before he led the military coup against president Salvador Allende). Neruda eventually escaped across the Andes on horseback into Argentina and made his way to Europe using the passport of his fellow writer, the Guatemalan novelist, Miguel Ángel Asturias. All this is also related in Neruda’s Memoirs, which we publish.

Not only was Pablo Neruda one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets but his life was an integral part of the history of the century. Pablo Neruda was born the son of a railway-worker and Memoirs opens with a lyrical evocation of his childhood in Chile, in what was still a frontier wilderness.

Neruda describes his bohemian youth in Santiago and his career as Chilean consul in Burma and Ceylon before the agony of his life during the Spanish Civil War. After the murder of his friend, Garcia Lorca, Neruda became a communist and a poet “for the people”. On his return to Chile he became a Senator before being forced into exile and he escaped from Chile, on horseback over the Andes, in 1949.

“His many books are the vast adventure story of his life, wars, travels, politics, and of course loves… The reader who knows no Spanish can be confident that, in reading Alastair Reid’s fine translations, he is reading Neruda… the memoirs are a delight; a ‘rattling good yarn’.”

‘London Magazine’

Memoirs cover

Souvenir Press has a long history with Pablo Neruda and have published his work since 1976, in 2004 we published new editions of several of his books to celebrate the centenary of his birth. Among Neruda’s work we publish Fully Empowered, one of Neruda’s own favourite collections of his poetry. The thirty-six poems vary from short, intense lyrics, characteristic Neruda odes, whimsical addresses to friends, and his magnificent mediations on the role of the poet. Within Fully Empowered are many poems among the best of Neruda’s work, including ‘The People’, his most celebrated later poem, where he stakes his claim to be the greatest voice of the common man in twentieth-century poetry.

“A passion to connect poetry to everything… There are those still who want to keep poetry esoteric and elitist and away from the quotidian. Like it or not, though, the opposite to this was Neruda’s self-appointed project, and it has a lot to do with the fact that his poetry is so enduringly popular.”

Matthew Sweeney, ‘Poetry London’

Fully Empowered contains much of Neruda’s greatest work… Neruda specifically asked his finest translator, Alastair Reid, to translate this volume into English.”

Poetry Book Society Bulletin

You can find Fully Empowered here:

Fully Empowered cover

We also publish Isla Negra, Neruda’s poetic autobiography centred round his home. Neruda considered Isla Negra, a small village on the Pacific coast of Chile, as the centre of his world. The poems move from childhood impressions and awakenings through his early loves, travels and the dawning of his political awareness to self-scrutiny and self-definition. Among their variety Neruda embraces the apparent contradictions of his life. Through-out the poems present and past interact, and this collection becomes the most revealing of Neruda’s long career. The poems of Isla Negra display the astonishing abundance of the human imagination when mingled with memory.

“Pablo Neruda moves fast, and Reid follows alertly, ingeniously; his translations in this book are superb.”

Robert Bly, ‘New York Times’

“From these humble beginnings he went on to become possibly his country’s most famous son… as well as creator of some of the century’s most memorable and beautiful poetry.”

‘Financial Times’

You can find Isla Negra here:

Isla Negra cover

Residence on Earth is Neruda’s first great work and the expression of his mature voice, political, engaged and committed where Neruda speaks not only for the victims of repression such as his friend and fellow poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, but for entire continents.

“Pablo Neruda was easily the most prolific and popular of all twentieth-century poets… At his best, he is among the small group of last century’s great poets.”

                                                                                                            Mark Strand


The spontaneity and directness of Neruda’s voice finds its great subject in Residence on Earth, as he became “the people’s poet” addressing the reader with poems that are realistic and refer to the ordinary, exalting the basic things of existence while speaking for a politically committed vision of a reformed world.

“If I could weep with fear in a solitary house,

if I could take out my eyes and eat them,

I would do it for your black-draped orange-tree voice

And for your poetry that comes forth shouting.”

‘Ode To Frederico Garcia Lorca’

You can read more about it here:

Residence on Earth

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