The complex legacy of Pablo Neruda 50 years after the Nobel

On a day like today, exactly 50 years ago, the poet and writer Pablo Neruda received the Nobel Prize for Literature, an award he had long longed for.

The former senator and chancellor is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of the culture of our country. That day, when he was announced as the winner of this award, Neruda pointed out that: “I was in Paris in 1971, just arrived to fulfill my duties as ambassador, when my name began to appear again in the newspapers ”.

Author of great works such as Canto General, the Twenty Poems of Love and Residence on Earth and among other masterful creations, he left a very important legacy for posterity and was considered by the Swedish academy as the “author of a poetry that, with the action of an elemental force, gives life to the destiny and dreams of a continent“.

When he was awarded the highest distinction, the then Chilean ambassador was 67 years old and an important name within the academy.

But Pablo Neruda’s legacy has been questioned in recent years by many groups. Several unpublished details of his personal and family life have even been repudiated.

The poet in 1934, was married to the Dutch Maria Hagenaar Vogelzang. They both had a daughter named Malva Marina, and a few years ago it came to light that their daughter, who suffered from hydrocephalus, had been abandoned by her father and treated almost as if she were an animal. According to Neruda’s ex-wife, the poet said that she was “a perfectly ridiculous being”, “a kind of semicolon” ​​and “a three-kilogram vampire”.

The Chilean poet first hid her, and then left her definitively, her and her mother Maria in the city of Monte Carlo. Years later, in Holland, in 1943, Little Malva Marina would die at the age of eight.

Another of the events that tarnish the artist’s career is what can be read in some of the writings of “I confess that I have lived”, where the author recalled an encounter with a woman. That meeting, he narrated it like this:

“One morning, determined to everything, I took her tightly by the wrist and looked her face to face. There was no language in which he could speak to her. She was led by me without a smile and was soon naked on my bed. The encounter was that of a man with a statue. He stood the whole time with his eyes open, impassive. He was right to despise me. The experience was not repeated ”.

This was highly criticized from various places and movements. In 2018, in fact, the Chilean feminist movement made a dissemination of these extracts and strongly condemned the fact. “We are before the description of a rape, the testimony of a man who tells how he imposed his force and his will without consent on a poor woman“, They published.

A successful career, with works of anthology, but that during the last years have been clouded by these accusations. Neruda is undoubtedly one of the key names in the culture, but his legacy cannot be balanced without first hearing about his personal story and how he hurt other people.

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The complex legacy of Pablo Neruda 50 years after the Nobel

Hank Gilbert