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The Book of Questions Paperback – April 1, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 74 poems in this collection consist entirely of questions. These questions appeal to the reader to supply images not answers. Exploiting the lag between perception and understanding, the Nobel laureate's poems evoke pictures that make sense on a visual level before the reader can grasp them on a literal one. The effect is mildly dazzling: "Where did the full moon leave / its sack of flour tonight?" Composed during the final months of a fatal illness, these poems are also pervaded by an autumnal atmosphere: "Why do leaves commit suicide / when they feel yellow?" Yet Neruda's characteristic depiction of life and death as cyclical allows him to be inquisitive and even playful toward his own mortality instead of despairing: "Will your worms become part / of dogs or of butterflies?" O'Daly's translations achieve a tone that is both meditative and spontaneous. His introduction, however, fares less well, in yielding to the misconception of Neruda ( Still Another Day ) as a kind of South American shaman rather than representing him as the shrewd and ironic poet he demonstrated himself to be even in minor works such as this.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Once called "a one-man Renaissance," Nobel laureate and Chilean poet and statesman Neruda (1904-1973) wrote these 74 poems and 316 playful questions about death, nature, and rebirth in the last year of his life. Cryptic and intriguing, these brief answerless riddles, like Roethke's visionary poems, ask the sophisticated question of the innocent child--"Is the sun the same as yesterday's/ or is the fire different than that fire?"--and probe what it means to be human: "Whom can I ask what I came/to make happen in this world?" This volume is the last in a series of seven bilingual translations from this publishers of Neruda's late and posthumously published work. American poetry and readers benefit by having excellent English-language translations of all Neruda's complicated, prolific work.
- Frank Al len, SUNY at Cobleskill
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press; 2nd edition (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • ISBN-10: 1556591608
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556591600
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
You can't read just one! I didn't believe all of the hype surrounding this book could be true. Not only is it true, it barely does the work justice.
This is a collection of short questions in poem form. The questions deal with finding the purpose in life, the meaning in nature and even what hell is like for Hitler. The poems are very simplistic and at the same time incredibly deep and reaching.
You will laugh and think and feel and be totally absorbed and inspired. I have read it three times already.
These poems, though written just before his death in 1973, should be required reading before any other work by Neruda. These poetic, and sometimes surreal, questions provide an insight into his work and soul that cannot be found anywhere else. And if you have read Neruda before this, you will want to re-read everything else!
The translation from the Spanish is absolutely perfect. Every nuance is captured completely.
Read this book!
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Format: Paperback
"The Book of Questions" is a remarkable literary work which transcends genre. The book consists, very simply, of a series of rhetorical questions divided up among 74 untitled poems (each poem contains from 3 to 6 questions). In this bilingual volume, Pablo Neruda's Spanish text is accompanied on each page by William O'Daly's crisp English translation.
Neruda asks questions about a dizzying range of topics--the natural world, religion, literature, history, food, the technological world, language, time, truth, justice, perception, and even his own legacy. Some of his questions are funny, some are disturbing. But all are thought-provoking, and the best of them display Neruda's dazzling ability to use words in surprising and illuminating ways. Who but Neruda would ask, "And at whom does rice smile / with infinitely many white teeth?" (section XII).
Reading "The Book of Questions," I had the sensation of reading some strange work of scripture--the writings of a prophet who had transcended the normal boundaries of perception and who challenges us to do the same. Although Neruda's prophetic voice varies greatly in mood--sometimes angry, sometimes playful, sometimes melancholy--his mastery of his poetic instrument is consistent, and the breadth of his vision is amazing. He is one of those poets--like William Blake, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson--whose writings constitute a modern equivalent to the poetic legacy of Buddha, Lao-Tzu, or the author of Ecclesiastes.
It's impossible to pick out just a few questions with which to give the reader a full sense of the power of "the Book of Questions." This is a book which one can read at one breathless sitting; it is also a book that, like an inscrutable sage, invites us to return again and again.
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Format: Paperback
The BOOK OF QUESTIONS was written in 1973, a few months before Neruda's death to cancer. Troubled by the knowledge of his impending death, as well as by a U.S. backed coup threatening the Allende government in Chile (Leftist regime 1970-73), Neruda wrote several small books of brief poems, comprised simply of unanswerable questions, in the koan tradition (question/statement in the form of a paradox that disciples of Zen ponder). They are enigmatic, at times surreal, leaving you lost in labyrinths of deep thought, or in abstract bewilderment.
My favorite questions include:
Why do leaves commit suicide
When they feel yellow?
and
When the convict ponders the light
is it the same light that shines on you?
--ross saciuk
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Format: Paperback
316 questions posed by the great poet just months before his death. I found more than 70 of them worth copying into my journal, and I'm not particularly compulsive about things like that. Reading them, you will probably find yourself transported to an especially thoughtful and unusual frame of mind.
Here are some favorites:
Is it true that in an anthill, dreams are duty?
Am I allowed to ask my book whether it's true I wrote it?
Why did the grove undress itself only to wait for the snow?
You have room for some thorns? they asked the rose bush.
Where can you find a bell that will ring in your dreams?
Does the earth sing like a cricket in the music of the heavens?
And at whom does rice smile with infinitely many white teeth?
Will Czechoslovakians or turtles be born from your ashes?
In dreams, do plants blossom and their solemn fruit ripen?
And why does my skeleton pursue me if my soul has fallen away?
Isn't the city the great ocean of quaking mattresses?
What did the tree learn from the earth to be able to talk with the sky?
What was awaiting me in Isla Negra? The green truth or decorum?
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the best collections of poems by Neruda. Insightful, provocative, charming, lovely, wonderful questions which are poems and poems which are cast as questions. I let someone borrow my copy and never got it back! I'm ordering another copy because this is one collection one should return to often.
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I began this book with the idea that I would be done in an hour, but I could not read the contents at face value and take it lightly. I had to stop, ponder, re-read, and digest. Some questions drew laughs, some drew tears, but all changed the way I see certain things. This is a wonderful book to own, to pass around among friends, and to quote.
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