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May 10, 2004

Events marking Neruda centennial set for May 13 and 18

Two events marking the centennial of Pablo Neruda's birth are scheduled for this week and next on the Stanford campus.

The Center for Latin American Studies will celebrate the culmination of the Pablo Neruda Centennial Project, spearheaded by alumnus Mark Eisner, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, May 13, in Bolívar House, 582 Alvarado Row. Eisner is the editor of a newly published collection of Neruda translations, The Essential Neruda, and will read selections from the volume. Eisner also has overseen the production of a documentary on Neruda, ¡Neruda! ¡Presente!, of which an excerpt will be shown.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 18, Professors Gordon Brotherston, Michael Predmore and Jorge Ruffinelli of the Spanish and Portuguese Department will join English Professor John Felstiner at the Humanities Center, 424 Santa Teresa St., for presentations and discussions about the Nobel Prize-winning poet. An exhibition of first editions of Neruda's works, among other memorabilia, will be on display. In addition, a recording of Neruda reciting "I Explain a Few Things," his elegy for the assassinated poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, will be played.

Both the May 13 and 18 events are free and open to the public.

Neruda was born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto on July 12, 1904, in southern Chile. His Twenty Poems of Love and a Desperate Song, published when he was 19, remains his best-loved work.

As a Chilean consul in Southeast Asia in the 1920s, he wrote the hauntingly melancholic verse from Residence on Earth. In Republican Spain of the 1930s, Neruda befriended the leading poets.

During the Spanish Civil War, he worked successfully against tremendous odds to resettle hundreds of Spanish refugees, a feat he was to refer to later as "the noblest mission of my life." After the war he became a senator for his country, representing the desolate mining communities of the north. His great epic, Heights of Macchu Picchu, speaks for that astounding Inca city and the Quechua workers who built it. As a Communist, Neruda was forced into hiding in 1947 when his party was declared illegal by the very candidate it had supported in recent democratic elections. In 1950 he published his monumental Canto General, with artwork by the Mexican muralists Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco.

From then on a stream of odes, love poems, political and autobiographical verse and prose issued from his travels and from his homes in Santiago and Isla Negra, Chile. Under Salvador Allende's government he was made ambassador to France, and in 1971 he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Chile's 1973 military coup found him on his deathbed. He died five days later, and his funeral occasioned the country's first public protest against the takeover.

The May 18 celebration is sponsored by the Poetry, Poetology and Poetics Workshop, the Spanish and Portuguese Department, and the English Department. For more information, call (650) 723-4977.



John Sanford, writer, Stanford News Service: (650) 736-2151,


Mark Eisner, executive director, Red Poppy: (415) 550-1217,

John Felstiner, professor of English: (650) 723-4722,

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