Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Lifeby Published 08 Aug 2005
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Adam Feinstein's book is the first English-language biography of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Relating Neruda's remarkable life story and delving into the literary legacy of the man Gabriel Garcia Marquez called "the greatest poet of the twentiehth-century-in any language," Feinstein uncovers the details of this icon's artistic output, political engagement, friendships with a pantheon of important 20th-century artistic and political figures, and many loves.
Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life Reviews
Neruda's life was amazing but Feinstein's writing is mediocre.
Book Review - Pablo Neruda "A Passion for Life"
"To produce such truthful poetry I guess you have to have a pretty crazy life to go alongside that.." - Feinstein on Neruda
"A Passion for life" is a biography of Neruda written by Adam Feinstein. Written to mark the centenary of the poet’s birth.
It follows Pablo's life from Childhood, documenting his upbringing in Temuco, Chile continuing to describe his enrolment working for the Burmese embassy, his various lovers and marriages and the inception and writing processes to his various journal articles, and of course his poetry collections.
There is a great deal that I would like to write about this book. I read it in fascination, sometimes having to gulp in breath.
The passion that Pablo's poetry holds has always been an inspiration to me and will continue to be so, and the affinity that he holds with nature inspires my own writing. I remember the involuntary heart palpitations from my first reading of Residencia En Tierra and my fascination with the way he created such abstract scenarios that at the same time seemed to fit together perfectly. I was worried when first choosing to read this, that it was written by a third-party and not Neruda himself, and therefore could be inaccurate, but I didn't find this to be a problem.
Neruda's life is the kind that you can get embroiled in as a reader. His attention to detail becomes your attention to detail, his passion for life rubs off on you, and I can imagine Feinstein experiencing this effect when researching Neruda. He doesn't write in an over complimentary fashion, keeping his opinions on points such as Neruda's devotion to Josef Stalin, (suggesting that he was blinkered by admiration). Although Feinstein writes in an unbiased fashion, you can see his admiration for Neruda through the devoted way that he writes about his life.
What struck me was the detail that he uses. He included all important milestones for the poet, but also peppered the biography with kitsch little details such as the poet as a child, writing his first poetry into the paintwork of boats and scratching letters into the sand. The reappearing theme of the ocean is something that I really enjoyed throughout this work (whether or not this was intentional I'm not sure) but it gave a nice continuity to the work, helping Feinstein to stay true to Neruda's love of the ocean and marine life. Unlike some biographies, Feinstein makes this work lyrically sing as well as giving us a play-by-play of Neruda's life-events.
Whilst reading this book, I also read Neruda's poetry collection alongside it, which I found was beneficial to my understanding of the book. I would recommend this if you really want to get an insight into understanding Neruda's poetry, as sometimes he can be cryptic.
For example in the 1940's he took a trip to Guatemala and Peru and wrote his epic poem "Alturas De Machu Picchu"reading about his love for Peru alongside this really helped me to identify with Neruda's passions for the country.
I don't think many people are aware of the political risks that Neruda undertook in order to get his poetry published, or to promote his political message. I was bowled over by the devotion that he had to his cause, and the sense of humour and whimsy that he kept along the way. The way that Feinstein documents his life reflects this.
The book contains an in-depth amount of research and documentation, such as letters from Pablo's sister Laurita and love letters from the poet to his many dames (juicy love letters at that). The reader can really tell that Feinsteinmade this his life's work, and the dedication he has given to this is admirable.
I recommend this book if you're looking to read about the life of a great man, a political pioneer and a Lothario. It made me connect with Neruda more than I had previously, and made me want to travel the America's again!
Marvelous book, just the way I like a good biography: replete with a fascinating variety of details, all reported and described by a multitude of individuals who knew the great poet. The man had friends far and wide, from every profession and background. The author also took a fearless look at Neruda's shortcomings: his weakness for women and wine (not song, he apparently had a tin ear), and his refusal for so long to face the failures and iniquities of Communism in the Soviet Union, and the crimes committed by his former hero, Stalin. It all has the ring of truth, pulls no punches, embraces the good and the bad in one man's life. A long and excellent account, that reads well.
What an interesting life Neruda led - traveled the world! Tells his life very honestly - the good and the bad. Can't wait to read more of his poetry!
Adam Feinstein makes a good fist of encapsulating the life of one of the 20th century's greatest writers within 400 pages. He doesn't gloss over Neruda's shortcomings - particularly his delayed condemnation of Stalinism and the deceptions of his love life - but overall what emerges is a life in which commitment triumphs over existentialism. Even in his dying days, when many of his political hopes were crumbling as the coup against Allende took hold, there is a sense that human dignity will prevail. And the excerpts from the poetry throughout his life - from the Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair through to the later odes - makes one want to reach for his collected works and delve in once more.