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This review is taken from PN Review 257, Volume 47 Number 3, January - February 2021.

Cover of The Unknown Neruda
Brian MortonThe Unknown Neruda, Pablo Neruda translated by Adam Feinstein, Arc Publications, £10.99
The title is immediately arresting, not just as Adam Feinstein says because Neruda was a Nobel prize-winner – plenty of laureates are honoured top-shelf busts but unread outside their domain – but because Neruda’s global celebrity would seem to preclude anything being overlooked. And yet, there are many poems here that will only be known to specialists.

They come, even more intriguingly, from every phase of his career. Some of the most interesting, inevitably, are the early verses, some of them from notebooks entrusted, more than half a century after their composition and following the death of his half-sister Laura, to a presumed kinsman, subsequently auctioned and eventually published by Hernán Loyola in Los cuadernos de Neftalí Reyes, which put them beyond the reach of the average reader. They’re revelatory to the extent that they immediately confirm that, for all his abundance of expression, Neruda took pains over every syllabic cadence and vowel sound. ‘Adentro de mi vida voy echando mi ensueño / en lloviznas sutiles de amor y de veneno’ (Lo Estéril), rendered by Feinstein as ‘My life is a daydream of / fine drizzle, love and poison’, is a perfect early example and a good illustration of how confidently and un-fussily Feinstein has taken ‘the tightrope walk between meaning and music’. Massively prolific he may have been, but there is not a sign of broad-brush writing anywhere. Even at the end, with something as white-hot as Incitación al Nixoncidío y Alabanza de la Revolución Chilena (An Incitement to ‘Nixoncide’ and Praise for the Chilean Revolution) he is incapable ...


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