In search of books in English, I walked far around the northeast parts of Santiago. I found a small store at the metro station called Escuela Militar selling books in English. Before that I had walked past the military school that gives the station its name. The buildings are forbidding: vast arrays of columns and power. I was reminded of the remark that the military took over when the socialists messed up the country. There is a dark side to the current wealth of this city.
In the small bookstore, I bought a translation of Pablo Neruda’s poems. I had heard he was a great Chilean poet, but I had not hitherto read his poems. The introduction tell us he was a communist and hence fled the country for many years. The introduction tells us he wrote poems praising Stalin.
Of course Neruda was misguided. Or was he? I dipped at random into the volume and found this snippet:
In tyranny’s dense
purple cheese another worm
awakens: the favorite,
he is the skulking coward hired
to praise dirty hands.
Was Neruda a favorite of Stalin? Hired to praise a tyrant?
So I read on. Here are parts of his poem The Dollar’s Lawyers and it is as true today as then;
American inferno, our bread
soaked in poison, there’s another
toungue in your perfidious fire:
the native lawyer
of the foreign company.
When New York’s imperial
advance guards (engineers
to measure conquered land,
tin, petroleum, bananas,
nitrate, copper, manganese,
sugar, iron, rubber, soil,
an obscure midget steps forth,
with a yellow smile,
and suavely advises
the new invaders.
The poem goes on to excoriate these lawyers in Chuquicamata, Antofogasta, and all those places where there are now mines.
Of Anaconda Copper he poems:
Name of a coiled snake,
insatiable gullet, green monster,
in the clustered heights,
in my country’s rarefied
saddle, beneath the moon
you open the mineral’s
lunar craters, the galleries
of virgin copper, sheathed
in its granite sands.
He would say the same today of too many a mining company.
i am intrigued and will read more. I recall that Wagner was nasty fellow and an anti-semite. Yet I revel in his music. Can I too enjoy the music, albeit in English, of Neruda while knowing of his anti-capitalist, anti-mining bent?
If you have read more of Neruda than me, or have read it in native Spanish, tell me you opinions.