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The late poet Pablo Neruda was, as he admits himself here, no prose stylist--but there are a few outstanding items in this collection of previously unpublished prose pieces. Identified with his native Chile as its most renowned man-of-letters, Neruda often and effortlessly delivers eloquent commentaries on the state of Chilean writers: ""we are semi-solitary actors, oriented or disoriented, in vast, barely cultivated terrains, in a semi-colonial society, our voices muted both by the amazing vitality of our nature and by the familiar isolation to which we are condemned by the cities of today and yesteryear."" Among the many public pronouncements and speeches are (along with the Nobel Prize acceptance-address) impressive political documents from 1947--when Chilean Senator Neruda denounced the Videla regime of the period in truly hall-ringing tones of greatness. And there are several fine poetic essays: ""The Cup of Blood"" above all, in which Neruda disinters his father's casket and, shockingly, finds that it is filled with water. The rest of this large book, however, is on a much lower level--with some weak early prose-poetry and middling travel pieces. Dismaying, too, are the many Communist Party orations and literary forewords here: fawning, rhetorical, push-button rhapsodies that could have come from any Party hack. (From ""Flowering Rumania, Her Poets"": ""Poetry strides easily into the new age. Its seeds stirred beneath the earth and its flowers bloomed copiously along with the broader flowering of a people."") So, except for a handful of pieces, there's little in this bulky gathering that enhances or revises Neruda's reputation--and its primary appeal will be to comprehensive scholars of Chilean literature and its major figure.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux