Pablo Neruda, the nom de plume of Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was born in Chile, in 1904. His first collection of poems, Crepusculario, was published in 1923 when he was nineteen years of age, but it was his second, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924), that would ultimately earn him literary celebrity. Other notable works include: Spain in My Heart (1933), inspired by Neruda’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War and by the death of his friend and fellow poet, Federico García Lorca; Residence on Earth (1933), a collection of obscure and surreal poems; and Canto General (1950), an expansive work, composed in exile about the socio-political history of Latin America from a Marxist ethos. Neruda was an active politician, as well a writer, and held administrative positions in Spain, Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He was also forced into exile 1949 because of his politics, but returned to Chile in 1952. He was close to Salvador Allende and from 1970 to 1972 Neruda served as the Chilean ambassador to France. In 1971, Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams”. The Colombian author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, once called Pablo Neruda, “the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language.” He died in 1973.
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