Pablo Neruda: Possibly poisoned by Pinochet government?

June 3, 2011

Pablo Neruda, poet and then-Chilean ambassador to France, talks with reporters in Paris after being named the 1971 Nobel Prize winner for Literature. (By Laurent Rebours/Associated Press)

NPR’s Two-Way blog points to this story that broke Tuesday (but we may have been too busy looking at men’s boxers to notice).

Though Neruda’s family contends that the poet died of cancer, his driver Manuel Araya alleged that Pinochet agents injected deadly poison into Neruda’s stomach. Shortly before his death, Neruda, a communist, published a withering criticism of Pinochet’s dictatorship, eulogizing his friend President Salvador Allende and accusing Chile’s soldiers of having betrayed their country. Neruda died twelve days after Pinochet’s coup toppled Allende’s government.

Recently, Allende’s body was exhumed to determine whether Pinochet had him killed.

Here’s one work by Neruda, though many, many more are equally sublime.

A love poem

Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos,

te pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega.

Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava

y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.

Fui solo como un túnel. De mí huían los pájaros

y en mí la noche entraba su invasión poderosa.

Para sobrevivirme te forjé como un arma,

como una flecha en mi arco, como una piedra en mi honda.

Pero cae la hora de la venganza, y te amo.

Cuerpo de piel, de musgo, de leche ávida y firme.

Ah los vasos del pecho! Ah los ojos de ausencia!

Ah las rosas del pubis! Ah tu voz lenta y triste!

Cuerpo de mujer mía, persistiré en tu gracia.

Mi sed, mi ansia sin límite, mi camino indeciso!

Oscuros cauces donde la sed eterna sigue,

y la fatiga sigue, y el dolor infinito.

Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,

when you surrender, you stretch out like the world.

My body, savage and pleasant, undermines you

and makes a son leap in the bottom of the earth.

I was lonely as a tunnel. Birds flew from me.

And night invaded me with her powerful army.

To survive I forged you like a weapon,

like an arrow for my bow, or a stone for my sling.

But now the hour of revenge falls, and I love you.

Body of skin, of moss, of firm and thirsty milk!

And the cups of your breasts! And your eyes full of absence!

And the roses of your mound! And your voice slow and sad!

Body of my woman, I will live on through your marvelousness,

My thirst, my desire without end, my wavering road!

Dark river beds down which the eternal thirst is flowing,

and the fatigue is flowing, and the grief without shore.

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