on October 15, 1999
If you must read only one book from the Modern Latin American Literature (and this certainly would be a great mistake, if not a crime), then it should be this one. Canto General is a single poem, and yet it is a collection of poems. It is a historical epic, a social analysis, a political pamphlet, and a love sonnet. It is a song of Love and a song of Revolt, a personal song as well as a universal one; a song which whispers tenderly in your ear, and a song that screams against injustice with a loud forceful voice. It is Pablo Neruda's song and it is Chile's song, but it is truly America's song, North and South.
Written in Neruda's lyrical and mellifluous style, Canto General speaks with passion, lucidity, and even premonition of the heavy burden of social injustice and the brutality of tyrannical rule. But it also speaks with overflowing sensuality of love (for women, for the people, for his country). It would be unconscionable not to absorb and understand this book in its social and historical context, yet it would be a great mistake to view it uniquely as a political work of expression.
Read it to understand the Americas. Read it to revel in the beauty of its language. Read it to feel proud and to feel ashamed, to laugh and to cry. Read it in English (good), in Spanish (much better), or even in French (why not?)
I first read Canto General in French at the age of 15. I may since have forgotten some of the words in this book, but its impact and its spirit will probably remain with me for the rest of my life....
on September 23, 2010
How is there only one review for this? This is one of the greatest books of all-time. Neruda is one of my favorite poets and all of the reasons why are present in this text. I just learned that some people have a different impression of Neruda because they have only come across his more popular Odes and Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair. I like it all, but those are nowhere near the level of Canto General.
Canto General is an epic. I especially love the early passages about life on Earth before the conquistadors came. It's a complete historical account about the creation, the defilement and the restoration of the Americas. Neruda brings it all out full force in this book. I have read many passage out loud and have found myself actually winded from the unending power.
This translation is excellent. I can't compare it to others, but it's clean and seems to hit the mark really well. When reading it, I never question that it's anything but Neruda's voice. There is also a nice introduction. It also has a flap that can be used is a bookmark. It's very sturdy for a paperback.
Get this book. Each read opens new windows. Neruda is at the height of his powers here. There are wonderful passages, captivating sub-narratives, political revolts, and the poetry is unparalleled. It's actually hard to describe in words. When the mind is clear, it's some of the best poetry that there is.
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