Thursday, September 23, 2010

World's End by Pablo Neruda

Translated by William O’Daly

Pablo Neruda never disappoints. There are many great poets but he is one that seems to say so much with so few words. Succinct and concise. That said, World’s End, the final of the series of Neruda collections from Copper Canyon Press, feels different somehow. He addresses larger issues and concepts than his previous collections. In places, his tone feels more defiant. Of course, his picturesque lexicon and love for Chile still pervades, despite the clear sense of disappointment he seems to have placed on himself.

In “The Wars”, he speaks to the scars and remains of war. He talks of the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the labor camps of Siberia, and despite his familiarity with heartache and violence, he still appears mystified by the waste.

Come here, fallen hat,
burnt shoe, toy
or posthumous pile of eyeglasses
or else man, woman, city
rise from the ash
as far as this weary page,
deprived by the weeping.

Come, black snow, solitude
of Siberian injustice,
frayed remains of pain
when close ties were lost
and the fog of the inexplicable night
overtook the righteous.

He talks about his homeland, Chile, and describes it as a mother whose appearance has changed. Neruda served as a senator at one time, and was active politically and hands-on in his duties.  He could see that for the common people, time had not been kind. In “Ports”:

Seated, she sees the flowing water
of the dark irrigation ditches,
the detritus of the outskirts,
the assassinated gills,
and the stiff dead cats.

In the books, mother country
was the color of oranges and snow,
and through her hair fell
a cascade of cherries.
So it hurts to see her
seated in a broken chair,
among potato peelings
and rickety furniture.

A favorite of mine was “Little Devils”, wherein he describes both individuals as well as political entities and their quest to raise themselves above others, crushing the voiceless with their agendas. He ends it by acknowledging that for all his contributions, he could not create significant change.

I have seen how the rich one
would prepare his character,
the social climber his alibi,
the gold digger her nets,
the poet his inclusions.

I played with blank paper,
each day facing the light.

I am a working fisher
of verses, living and wet,
that go leaping in my veins.

I never knew how to make anything else
or knew how to curb the needs
of the natural braggart

…leave me alone with the sea;
I was born to small fish.

As in the other collections, William O’Daly prefaces the collection and contributes greatly to understanding Neruda’s intentions and state of mind in World’s End. He reveals “If Neruda never allowed disillusionment and heartache to destroy his hope, he credits his powers of renewal, as a man and as a poet, to forgetting (p.XXIV).” O'Daly also identifies and clarifies some of Neruda's allusions to military leaders such as Castro and Stalin, a knowledge that helps the reader understand Neruda's own understanding of world events.

Special thanks to Janet Jones of Copper Canyon Press for the Review Copy.

1 comment:

  1. I have read a little Neruda, and I look forward to check some more. I particularly like the editions where both versions (original Spanish and translated English) are set side to side, so I can check for nuances and the translating art, it makes me feel closer to the translator and appreciate their work.