Diplomat, Poet (1904-1973)
Pablo Neruda was a Nobel Prize–winning Chilean poet who was once called "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."Born in Parral, Chile, on July 12, 1904, poet Pablo Neruda stirred controversy with his relationship with the Communist Party and his outspoken support of Joseph Stalin, Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro, but his poetic mastery was never in doubt, and for it he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.
Pablo Neruda was born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto in the Chilean town of Parral in 1904. His father worked for the railroad, and his mother was a teacher. At age 13, he began his literary career as a contributor to the daily La Mañana, where he published his first articles and poems. In 1920, he contributed to the literary journal Selva Austral under the pen name Pablo Neruda, which he assumed in honor of Czech poet Jan Neruda. Neruda’s literary development came from his teacher Gabriela mistral. By the time he finished high school, Neruda had published in local papers and Santiago magazines, and had won several literary competitions. In 1921 he left southern Chile for Santiago to attend school, with the intention of becoming a French teacher but had no interest in what he wanted to do.
Some of his early poems are found in his first book, Crepusculario (Book of Twilight), published in 1923, and one of his most famous works, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), was published the following year. Twenty Love Poems made Neruda a celebrity, which made him drawn to poetry. Nerudas works filled 459 pages in 1951; by 1968 it amounted to 3,237 pages, in two volumes, which caused him to rise in the ranks of 20th century poets. He also received numerous prestigious awards, including the International Peace Prize in 1950, the Lenin Peace Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda died just two years after receiving his Nobel Prize on September 23, 1973, in Santiago, Chile.
Life as a Diplomat
In 1927, Neruda began his long diplomatic career (in the Latin American tradition of honoring poets with diplomatic posts), and he moved around the world frequintly. In 1935, the Spanish Civil War began, and Neruda recorded the cruel acts, including the execution of his friend Federico García Lorca, in his España en el corazón (Spain in Our Hearts). Over the next 10 years, Neruda left and returned to Chile several times. Along the way, he was named Chile's consul to Mexico and won election to the Chilean Senate. He also began to cause controversy by praising Joseph Stalin (in poems such as "Canto a Stalingrado" and "Nuevo canto de amor a Stalingrado") and later for his poetry honoring Fulgencio Batista ("Saludo a Batista") and Fidel Castro.