Neruda: The Poet’s Calling

Mark Eisner. Ecco, $27.99 (608p) ISBN 978-0-06-269420-1
Neruda scholar and translator Eisner (The Essential Neruda) provides a bracingly comprehensive and authoritative account of the “poetry, personality, and politics” of one of the 20th century’s most revered poets. The heavily researched narrative illustrates how Neruda’s formative years in Chile, volunteer role on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, frequent travels as diplomat and cultural ambassador, marriages and affairs, and “ambition and belief in his own greatness” shaped his poetry. Claiming to be “neither unbiased nor hagiographic,” Eisner doesn’t let the enchantment of the verse soften his disapproval of the poet’s serial adultery or mistreatment of women, and questions Neruda’s self-appointed “people’s poet” status. Nevertheless, the thematic arc of Neruda’s poetic vocation is invitingly presented; several of his books are given a patient and thorough analysis, including the “monumental cultural event” of the early work Twenty Love Poems, published in 1924. Meanwhile, the descriptions of places where Neruda lived and traveled are poetry themselves, such as Eisner’s description of how the young Neruda would “watch the light blue ocean pulse its universal heartbeat.” This efficient and moving study should delight scholars and poets with its depth of detail and excellent translations, and may even draw new admirers who share Neruda’s belief that “poetry is like bread; it should be shared... by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
Ebook - 608 pages - 978-0-06-269422-5
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