Quantcast
Latest Stories

‘The Neruda Case’ chips away Chilean poet’s myth

By

This book cover image released by Riverhead shows “The Neruda Case,” by Roberto Ampuero. (AP Photo/Riverhead)

“The Neruda Case” (Riverhead Books), by Roberto Ampuero

The great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote about Latin American history and landscapes, the simple beauty and depth of ordinary objects, but perhaps most memorably, about love.

His inspiration drew from his life, and in Roberto Ampuero’s novel “The Neruda Case,” the poet reminisces about the women in his life during his final days, as the threat of a coup d’etat against socialist President Salvador Allende builds and Neruda grows increasingly weak from the cancer that would soon take his life.

In pursuit of his craft, love was often a casualty, and Ampuero’s imagined Neruda is tormented by his past: The wife he abandoned with their dying daughter in Spain for an Argentine woman, whom he’d leave years later for a Chilean woman hired to help care for the poet while he was sick in Mexico. But the woman who haunts him most is one with whom he had just a fleeting affair and who, decades later, has the answer to a question that could help him die in peace.

At a gathering among leftist friends, Neruda meets Cayetano Brule, a Cuban living in Chile after marrying his wife. He is disgruntled, unemployed and disenchanted with his marriage. Neruda convinces Brule he has the makings of an excellent detective and hires him to track down an oncologist friend in Mexico who had been studying herbal remedies for cancer and who, unbeknownst to Brule at the time, will lead him one step closer to the woman he needs to find.

To equip his novice detective with the tools needed to solve the mystery, Neruda gives Brule tomes of Belgian crime novelist Georges Simenon, whose Inspector Maigret is to serve as a guide of sort, though Brule finds his example lacking for a private eye in Latin America.

Ampuero grew up in Valparaiso, Chile, a seaside town where the poet had a home, and he deftly lures readers into Brule’s search, which takes him to Mexico and Cuba, shortly after Castro’s revolution, and East Berlin. As he journeys from one country to another, he goes about unraveling the poet’s past, struggling at times to reconcile the public and private image and life of Latin America’s greatest poet.

“He was pained by the surprising contempt he felt for this man whom he had, until now, admired more each day,” Ampuero writes of Brule. “Better to set up a boundary and keep the bitter portion from eating up the sweetness, from devouring the whole cake.”

In his lifetime, Neruda’s works inspired lovers, politicians, the working class and revolutionaries. In death, the poet himself has been the subject of fictional works, films and music. “The Neruda Case” is an important contribution, one that shows Neruda, albeit in a fictional light, as a man who grapples with the decisions of his past, and who, more than an admired poet, was an intensely flawed human.

While many Neruda biographies have been written, few have captured the complexity of his character and relationships the way Ampuero has accomplished in a fictional work. His writing is atmospheric and evocative, the pace steady and compelling, the portrayal of Neruda detailed and convincing. Brule’s exhaustive journey loses some of its steam after so many twists and turns, but picks up again and leaves readers turning to the final page.

Ampuero, the current Chilean ambassador to Mexico and also an instructor of creative writing at the University of Iowa, grew up in Valparaiso, a seaside town just north of Santiago, where the poet had a home. Brule has been featured in five other Ampuero novels. “The Neruda Case” is the first to be published in English, a translation long overdue for an author whose works have already been read widely in Latin America and published in eight other languages.

In an essay released at the same time as the book, Ampuero writes that his motive in writing “The Neruda Case” was to, with the shelter of fictional license, portray the poet of “flesh and blood.”

“It isn’t easy to write a novel that captures the real human being, as Neruda’s fame is so solid and universal that written works about him tend toward the apologetic and adulatory, keeping him on a pedestal,” Ampuero writes. “I believe that both his genius as an artist and his authentic side as a man spring from his complex spirit, his light and shadow, and the passion of his human condition.”


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Book Review , Books , Cayetano Brule , Chilean Poet , Pablo Neruda , Poet , Poetry , Roberto Ampuero , Salvador Allende , “The Neruda Case



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  3. This is not just a farm
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  6. She has become the sex slave of her best friend
  7. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Most criticized books list includes Hunger Games, Perks
  10. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  1. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  4. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  7. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  8. Prince William fuels speculation of second royal baby
  9. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  10. This is not just a farm
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • US weighing military exercises in Eastern Europe
  • Rains loom in Surigao as LPA nears
  • Sub search for missing jet to be finished in week
  • 2 suspected victims of summary execution found dead in N. Cotabato
  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken ferry in Korea
  • Sports

  • Nick Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk
  • Teague scores 28 as Hawks soar past Pacers in Game 1
  • Warriors beat Clippers in playoff opener
  • Pacquiao top Mayweather contender
  • Rain or Shine, Ginebra clash for No. 6 spot
  • Lifestyle

  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  • Fashionistas flock to designer’s wedding
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café
  • Connecting and transacting with one another
  • Building wealth for health
  • Why Mandaue Foam buys, rather than rents, space
  • A workplace of new possibilities
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Cesar Chavez movie sparks memories of Fil-Am labor leaders
  • Filipinos in US poised for success
  • Visas for priests and other faith leaders
  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus
    Marketplace