Poetry and the Cold War: Pablo Neruda’s Canto General

  • Enrico Mario Santí
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)

Abstract

No single Latin American book of the twentieth century engaged more a historicist imagination than Pablo Neruda’s Canto general (1950). I take up it up first in this series of readings not just because of its exemplary treatment of historical data. Describing it “thickly” will also allow me to illustrate the complexities of what I call ciphered reading, my own version of Geertz’s idea, as the book maneuvers historical and biographical clues under its sweeping encyclopedic scope. In this I proceed inductively, taking up first general descriptions, particularly those Neruda offered up about the book successively and over a 30-year period. Indeed, Neruda began describing Canto general even before he wrote it, when it was still a draft that grew in time and took several years to complete. And because he often charged those descriptions with ideological content, as he engaged in polemics that forced him eventually to flee his native Chile, their sum-total provides an unwitting context, a screen against which the reader can judge the extent to which the resulting book carried the original project to fruition.

Keywords

Dust Europe Coherence Full Century Olated 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Enrico Mario Santi, Pablo Neruda:The Poetics of Prophecy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For Neruda’s biography, I draw on the following: Pablo Neruda: Memoirs, trans. Hardie St. Martin (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1976)Google Scholar
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  7. 23.
    I paraphrase, here and below, my own discussion in Pablo Neruda:The Poetics of Prophecy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), 108–118; see in chronological order, the following: Juan Ramon Jimenez, Espanoles de très mundos (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1942)Google Scholar
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  12. 35.
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  13. 37.
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    For the previews’ dates of first publication, see the corresponding notes to the poems in OC, I, 1208–1213. My estimate is based on comparison, section by section, of the number of poems published before February 1948 and the number that actually appear in the book: I, 0 of 6; II, all; III, 2 of 25; IV, 1 of 41;V, 1 of 5;VI, all;VII, 8 of 17;VIII, 0 of 17; IX, 0; X, 0; XI, 0 of 15; XII, 1 of 4; XIII, 0 of 17; XIV, 0 of 24; XV, 0 of 28; only by examining the Canto general manuscripts, now presumed lost, could the stages of Neruda’s writing be determined with any certainty. See, however, Robert D.E Pring-Mill, “The Evidence of the Drafts,” in his A Poet for All Seasons (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, 1993), 32–43.Google Scholar
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  28. 61.
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  33. 69.
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  34. 70.
    See Alain Sicard, El pensamiento poético de Pablo Neruda (Madrid: Gredos, 1981), 284–285.Google Scholar
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  37. 73.
    See Neruda: el viajero inmovil, 314; and Guillermo Araya, “El Canto general de Neruda: poema épico-lirico,” Revista de critica literaria latinoamericana, vol. IV, nos. 7–8 (1978), 119–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944–1956 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 101.Google Scholar
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  40. 75.
    See “The British Rule in India,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Colonialism (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1959), 41.Google Scholar
  41. 76.
    See Octavio Paz, “Re/Visions: Mural Painting,” in Essays on Mexican Art (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1987), 162.Google Scholar
  42. 82.
    See Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (University of Chicago Press, 1961), who defines it as a narrator whose version of a story or comment the reader has reason to suspect; see also Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (London: Methuen, 1983), 100–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 86.
    See Pablo Neruda, Cantos de Pablo Neruda, Illustrations by David Alfaro Siqueiros and Carlos Beltrân (Lima: Ediciones Hora del Hombre, 1943).Google Scholar
  44. 87.
    The pinnacle of such a reading may be Hugo Méndez’s Neruda’s Ekphrastic Experience: Mural Art and Canto general (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press and Associated University Presses, 1999).Google Scholar
  45. 88.
    See Serge Fauchereav, Les Peintres révolutionnaires mexicains (Paris: Editions Messidor, 1985), 69Google Scholar

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© Enrico Mario Santí 2005

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  • Enrico Mario Santí

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