September 2, 2003
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.- In his new book, The Poetry of Pablo Neruda ($40, 800 pp., Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2003), Ilan Stavans has assembled a comprehensive dual-language collection of work by the man Gabriel García Márquez has called "the greatest poet of the twentieth century-in any language." Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture (Spanish) at Amherst, observes the historical greatness of the Chilean Nobel laureate. He writes in his introduction, "Almost every significant event of the twentieth century palpitates in Neruda's poems." Yet this "biblical prophet of sorts, the voice of the voiceless," was also a lyricist of earthly love and daily life, "watchful of the disturbances of life," Stavans writes. The Poetry of Pablo Neruda is Stavans's attempt to present "an image of Neruda's entire poetic arc."
Born Neftali Basoalto, Neruda adopted his pen name in fear of his family's disapproval, and yet by the age of 25 he was already famous for Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which remains his most beloved volume. During the next 50 years, a seemingly boundless metaphorical language linked his romantic fantasies and the fierce moral and political compass-exemplified in books such as Canto General-that made him an adamant champion of the dignity of ordinary men and women.
Edited and with an introduction by Stavans, this is the most comprehensive single-volume collection of this prolific poet's work in English. Stavans has collected the finest translations of nearly 600 poems by Neruda and joined them to specially commissioned new translations that attest to Neruda's still-resounding presence in American letters.
Stavans, founder of Hopscotch: A Cultural Review, is the author of On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language, The Hispanic Condition and The Riddle of Cantinflas, and the editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories and The Essential Ilan Stavans, among other books. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Latino Literature Prize, among many honors, and is currently completing The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. His work has been translated into half a dozen languages.