Land of poets – país de poetas. Having produced two Nobel Prize-winning poets has given Chile such a moniker, and by far the best-known of these is Pablo Neruda.
Pablo Neruda was my introduction to Latin American literature as a teenager (along with Gabriel Garcia Márquez) and it’s fair to say he has had a definite influence on my fiction writing style too. It was therefore a great privilege to come at writing about him from the angle I was able to approach this piece from.
What Neruda did more than any other poet I can think of was to sing the praises and the problems of his country evocatively in verse: his complete works are a complete portrait of Chile.
In his cantos and stanzas Neruda was a master at conjuring up Chile’s wild landscapes to serve as the backdrop to this thoughts and emotions, creating some of the most popular and widely translated lines in the Spanish-speaking literary world. But as a by-product, his poems also whet your appetite for some physical journeying through Chile.
There is no better place to start this physical journey than in Central Chile, a region in which the poet had, at different points in his life, no fewer than three houses. All of these houses, in Santiago, Valparaiso and out of the wild Pacific coast, are open to the public, and impart just as much of the poet’s soul as his poems. A journey to them and around them is a journey into Neruda’s mind and a trip into the sea-bashed heart of the nation.
That journey is more or less what I talk about here in this article for Lonely Planet…