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)


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.


Historical Materialism Muralist Painting Spanish Conquest Book Project Popular Front 
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© Enrico Mario Santí 2005

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  • Enrico Mario Santí

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