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Pablo Neruda's "Memoirs" is not a comprehensive autobiographical document. It is a personal memoir, recounted as if the author was sitting around a table, with good friends and a bottle of excellent Chilean wine, telling tales of the people, anecdotes and incidents that were so important in his life. "Confieso Que He Vivido," means I confess that I have lived. And Sr. Neruda certainly did that...with zest, zeal and so much talent. The translation by Hardie St. Martin is a good one, but it does not do justice to Neruda's beautiful skill with the Spanish language. He romances the language, like no other, even with his prose.
Neruda was born, the son of a railroad worker, in the then frontier wilderness of Southern Chile in 1904. He led a bohemian lifestyle, dressing in black "like the true poets of the last century," during his university years in Santiago. His shyness, the "kink in the soul,"...especially of women, took him a while to overcome. He describes the people and places of that period with great 'carino' (love). His political ideology began to form at that time also, and politics became an integral part of his writing. The Student Federation, student demonstrations and the subsequent repression, had a great impact on the young intellectual.
Neruda led a rich and fascinating life. World traveled throughout his life, he served as Chilean consul in Burma, Ceylon, and Java. He was the consul in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and during this time "Nine Love Poems" from "Veinte Poemas de Amor y Una Cancion Desesperada" was published. It was at this time also, that his friend Federico Garcia Lorca was killed. Neruda was present in Paris to organize a worldwide anti-Facist congress of writers that would be held in Madrid. His writing about Spain during the war is heartbreaking. Returning to Chile in 1938, he found a burgeoning Fascist movement in his own beloved land.
I particularly enjoyed his account of the time he spent in Mexico, as consul. He tells of his encounters with the great Mexican painters there.
After returning home, Neruda ran for political office and was elected to Chile's Senate in 1945. He was later removed from his Senate seat after joining the Communist Party.
His friends included: Garcia Lorca, Ehrenburg, Picasso, Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, Octavio Paz, Miguel Angel Asturias, Gandhi, Nehru, Mao, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and most sadly, Salvador Allende.
Pablo Neruda's death, just weeks after the brutal murder of Chile's President Allende, is something I will never forget. I was living in Colombia at that time, and remember where I was and what I was doing when I learned of Allende's death, and later heard of Neruda's passing. It called to mind, then and now, my recollections, as a young girl, when President Kennedy's assassination was announced. I always thought Neruda died of a broken heart.
This is an exceptionally good memoir, told with great charm, in a series of vignettes. I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who has read and enjoyed Pablo Neruda's poetry - to my mind some of the most beautiful in the world. It also gives us a glimpse of the politics of the left from the point of view of a Latin American - not the usual perspective, and well worth while.
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on August 31, 2002
Although not a fan of autobiographies, Neurda's Memoirs is a must. Memoirs traces his life and adventures from rural Chile to such places as India and pre-world war two Europe. Not only did he visit such wonderful places, but his timing and the role he plays in events is absolutly amazing. Moreover, one gets to see such events through the eye of a poet making Memoirs a rich and stirring read. Reading this not only gives perspective on where Neurda's passion for life came from, but his values and his poetry.
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on August 15, 2010
More than a review, I want to express my concern for so many mistakes in this translation.
Just in one page I chose to read (p.53-54)I found various inexplicable mistakes.
i.e. the translator chooses the word "vowels" to translate "vocablos", which in Spanish is a synonym for "words", therefore the whole sense of Neruda's "love for words" is twisted to say "love for vowels", totally meaningless!
Again, When Neruda says a word sits in a sentence "como una reinta", the translator changes the meaning of "like a little queen" to "like a small little thing" which has nothing to do with the sense of "little queen".
Just another example -of many more in just one page- when the Poet says "las palabras viven en el féretro escondido", what is hidden is the "féretro" (bier), not the words;nevertheless, the translator places the words as hidden in the bier, which is by no means the case.
One does wonder how such imprecise, careless translation of such a great poet has been allowed to be published!
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on October 10, 2003
Memoirs by Pablo Neruda was simply the most beautifully written autobiography i have ever laid eyes on... Not only does he talk about his exceptional journey through life, from his childhood in the forest to his worldwide travels as a chilean diplomat (and encounters with famous personalities along the way), but his abundant observations and insights on life are an inspiration to anyone who has cruised through life while wondering where they are headed. Beautiful language and keen observations. Reading it made me wish I knew Spanish...
Here's my favorite quote from the book: "It lies not in our power to love or hate, for will in us is overruled by fate"
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on October 14, 2014
What a poet, what a life.
A lover of nature, countries, women, and, of course, words, Pablo Neruda's "Memoirs" is a brilliant account of a single, unbelievable life on this planet. Told with such clarity and beauty, one page will have you laughing out loud, and then just pages later, reaching for a box of tissues. It's been a long time since a writer has had such an effect; I've now ranked him with my favorite writers like Joseph Mitchell, Dorothy Parker, Frank McCourt and Hemingway.
If you are a fan of his poetry, this book will only extrapolate the joy and awe his poems inspire. He truly was a gifted writer, and the years he spent roaming the earth gave him all the necessary ingredients he needed to fold in all of those rich, eloquent words. A gem of a memoir.
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on October 1, 2004
From very first pages, I was swept away into another world. You do not need to be familiar with Neruda or Chile to enjoy this book, but it helps. Neruda, while well known for his immense contribution to poetry, is a stunning writer of prose.
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on January 8, 2014
I was introduced to this work by reading an excerpt from it in a poetry class. I bought it, and found it inspiring, rich, unforgettable. The only drawback to this memoir is that it is so densely written that it can only be ingested in small chunks. Also, I don't have enough knowledge about the politics of early to mid 20th century, or the various Fascist regimes that Neruda witnessed, suffered through, and protested for the writing to jump to life, in some portions of the memoir. I intend to use this book for inspirational rather than recreational use. I have read some complaints about the quality of this translation, but I don't know Spanish, so that's not an issue for me. If a bad translation is this good, it must be something in the original.
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on April 25, 2014
I read this ebook,with no troubles to download,easy to buy.The book,is a Neruda's life story,written,as expected,in a poetic ,but really interesting and sometimes fine humor sense,manner.You can feel experiences lived by the poet,transporting yourself to everyplace he lived."Confess I have lived" is the book title,honoring his unique,authentic and extraordinary life..We need teach our children do not forget and encourage read Poets as Neruda,Garcia Lorca,Machado,etc..
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This is not the kind of Memoir which attempts to truly detail and cover the life of its subject. It is rather impressionistic and anecdotal. For instance it opens with a description of the world of southern Chile ,Neruda's native land. Aside from one loving reference to his step-mother Neruda tells us almost nothing about his family. His father was a railroad worker who did not show any interest in or respect for the poetry of his son. Neruda's focus is on himself and the natural world. His descriptions have a poetic strength about them. The book is filled with many incidents and vignetters which are of great interest. For instance he tells of a time when lost in the forest and he is directed to the house of three elderly sisters who provide at the edge of the jungle a whole world in their home of Parisian culture and cuisine. He tells us of his childhood years, and then his time at university in Santiago. He writes much about Valparaiso. And then he writes about his travelings in the diplomatic service. His wanderings in Southeast Asia bring him in touch with many exotic worlds. Loneliness and adventure seem his twin companions. For the greatest part of the book we read of romantic and sexual adventures without love. At one point in the story it seems his most affectionate relation in life is with a strangely domesticated mangoose he has adopted in Ceylon. The weak part of the book for me is the political opinionizing, especially when this becomes anti- Americanism. Neruda was a dedicated Communist. The chapter on his life in Spain in the Loyalist cause is central. Neruda believed more great poetry came out of the Spanish Civil War than out of the whole of the Second War. Neruda was from youth deeply involved in the world of poetry. Poets were his best friends and he describes and praises the work of many. His generosity in this is one of the great virtues of his character. And in fact he writes towards the end of the book a series of portraits of poet- friends of his. He also writes about a 'poetry of joy' and has loving words for his third wife. Neruda is a poet who believe that poetry could be made out of anything and everything. And one feels a poetic spirit pervades his work.
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on May 15, 2013
This is a one of a kind memoir and a true treasure. Neruda was a unique and gifted poet. A lover of live and its people and his memoir speaks of this. It brims with the miraculous magic he discovered as he grew up. An internationalist who met and enjoyed being friends with the people of influence and fame, he still was always a fierce defender of the poor and disenfranchised. He always came home to himself and his people. In every sentence you can feel this man's authenticity and clarity. I have read and re-read this book a few times already. Every time I feel deeply touched and inspired.
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