Letter About Pablo Neruda
on the occasion of his Nobel Literature Prize, 1970
World-renowned poet and Communist Party member Pablo Neruda was serving as Chile's ambassador to France in 1970 when it was announced that he had just won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The arts flourished under Allende's Popular Unity government, affecting trends in music, literature and art all over the world. "Sometimes we poets wait for miracles," Neruda told reporters, "and here it seems one has happened." Shortly after Chile's September 11, 1973 military coup d'etat, popular folksinger Víctor Jara, under arrest with 10,000 others in Santiago's National Stadium, had his hands broken by officials so that he could not play his guitar; they then beat him to death. A few days later, Neruda, afflicted with cancer, passed away — some say "of a broken heart."
Dear Compatriots: the Nobel Prize of Literature has been awarded to a Chilean — Pablo Neruda. This award, that grants immortality to one of ours, is the victory of Chile and its people, as well as of Latin America.
This extraordinary and significant distinction could have and should have been achieved by Neruda years ago, without belittling the work and literary merit of those who did receive it.
However, at this moment, it is for us also an obligation, as well as highlighting that Chile is a land of poets, to bring forth the memory of that woman that once also obtained the Nobel Prize of Literature, Gabriela Mistral, and point to the profound human and social content that is a background for the work of both.
Certainly, while this is not the time to point out or outline, even superficially, the work of Pablo Neruda, whose prodigious imagination reaches all aspects of life, I wish to emphasize that nothing has escaped the imagination of this poet of ours. His books and poetry have been translated into many languages. However, it is useful to say that this is the award for a poet who is committed to his people, who have journeyed along his verses for significant periods of his work; so it is natural that at this time it is the people who happily celebrate their compatriot, their brother.
Neruda, a distinguished humanist who has beautifully narrated the existential concerns of men; Neruda's poetry reflects all of Chile, with its rivers, its mountains, its eternal snow and torrid deserts, but, above all, its men and women and this is why love and social struggle are ever present.
I reiterate that the distinction given to Neruda is a distinction that reaches Chile and all Chileans. It is undeniably a national and patriotic feeling of satisfaction that I express here.
However, I must mention that Pablo Neruda, ambassador of the government of the people in France, has been during all of his existence a combatant with a firm ideological position, a militant of one of the parties that make up the Popular Unity and an active member of it.
Personally, I have very special motives for being moved by the distinction awarded to Pablo, with whom for so many years I participated in popular struggles. He was a comrade in many tours of the North, the Center and the South of Chile. I will always remember with emotion how the people who listened to our political speeches would listen with emotion and expectant silence to Pablo's readings of his own verses. How good it was for me to see the sensitivity of the people, and to see how the verses of the poet fell into the hearts and conscience of the Chilean masses.
That is why I send him a fraternal embrace on behalf of the Chilean people. The quality of Neruda the poet, our country with its popular government and the Communist Party of Chile are being recognized.
It is an event that ennobles a man who is the ambassador of Chile in France, representing the word of the popular government.
We are enthused because, I repeat, the poet's quality, as well as other facets, are being recognized. I believe that this joy is unanimous.