The Book of Questions

Pablo Neruda, Author, William C'Daly, Translator, William O'Daly, Translator
Pablo Neruda, Author, William C'Daly, Translator, William O'Daly, Translator Copper Canyon Press $11 (96p) ISBN 978-1-55659-041-2
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-1-55659-040-5
Paperback - 78 pages - 978-1-55659-160-0
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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. (Sept.)
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