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Passions and Impressions

Pablo Neruda

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To purchase Passions and Impressions

Title: Passions and Impressions
Author: Pablo Neruda
Genre: various
Written: (1978) (Eng.: 1983)
Length: 389 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Passions and Impressions - US
Passions and Impressions - UK
Passions and Impressions - Canada
  • Spanish title: Para nacer he nacido
  • Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
  • Edited by Matilde Neruda and Miguel Otero Silva
  • First published in 1978, this collection includes a variety of writings by Neruda published between 1922 and 1973
  • Includes Neruda's Nobel lecture

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting, varied collection of Neruda's prose

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Passions and Impressions collects a wide variety of Pablo Neruda's prose, spanning almost his entire career. The book is divided into seven notebooks, presenting writings from all periods and of all types, from a dozen prose poems published in Claridad in 1922 to his 1971 Nobel lecture, Poetry shall not have sung in vain.
       Twelve dispatches from 1927 collected as "Travel Images" form a nice complement to Neruda's descriptions of his travels to his various consular appointments in South-East Asia in his Memoirs (see our review).
       A section on "The Fire of Friendship" includes many portraits of figures large and small, from Federico García Lorca and César Vallejo to Lenka Franulic and the needleworkers of Neruda's beloved Isla Negra. Many of the pieces are remembrances for friends who passed away, almost all heartfelt and moving. Neruda was creative in his expression, and there are a number of memorable testaments here. "Picasso is a People", written for Picasso's ninetieth birthday, is a brief, exemplary piece.
       There are a number of historical political pieces in this collection as well. "Ours is a long and cruel history", Neruda writes of his homeland. "Continuous war has been waged against the people, that is to say, against our country", he believed, and he struggled for much of his life to effect change both as poet and active politician. The essay "The Crisis of Democracy in Chile is a Dramatic Warning", which led to impeachment proceedings against then-senator Pablo Neruda in 1947 is included, as is his 1948 speech before the Senate, "I Accuse". Though some of the issues addressed in these pieces were only of topical interest they are fine examples of Neruda's political skill. "I Accuse", in particular, must have made a strong impression. (Not strong enough, perhaps, -- or too strong: a month later the Supreme Court upheld Neruda's removal from the Senate and soon there was an arrest warrant out on him, forcing him into exile.)
       Poetry often comes up -- more, it seems because others expect him to have wise words about it than because he wants to pontificate. He protests a bit too much when he claims: "As a child and as an adult I have devoted more attention to rivers and birds than to libraries and writers", but he certainly emphasizes his love of nature, people, and his homeland -- while also acknowledging that they are integral to his poetry.
       Neruda writes: "I have assumed the poet's time-honored obligation to defend the people, the poor and the exploited", and then immediately asks: "Is this important ?" He sees it as a given; he can't see writing poetry without that sense of obligation. His Nobel lecture, in particular, is a neat summing up of his life and guiding principles.
       The pieces collected here are almost all carefully and well written, the poet watching his words and selecting them with care. Most of the pieces are generous in spirit (except the political ones), though Neruda does not shy away from strong expression. His introduction to the French edition of Alfredo Gómez Morel's The River begins:

El río is not exactly a book, nor is it a river. It is an excrescence of nature oozing pus and pain, a loathsome story inscribed on human flesh, on the skin of any Latin American peoples.
       This introduction, published in 1973, was one of his last pieces. Here he also writes:
Chile, against enormous difficulties and the attacks of many enemies, is creating on this continent a new order that will counteract the realities Gómez Morel's book denounces with such spine-chilling clarity.
       Sadly, of course, he was proved wrong, living -- just -- to see Allende deposed.

       Passions and Impressions -- filled with both -- is certainly a worthwhile collection, and a neat complement and supplement to his Memoirs. Many of the figures and issues discussed are largely forgotten or superseded, but enough here is timeless, especially Neruda's expression, as well as many of his observations. And his loves and passions -- Isla Negra, books from his collection, poetry, justice, and much more -- certainly shine through.

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Passions and Impressions: Pablo Neruda: Other books by Pablo Neruda under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto) lived from 1904 to 1973. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

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