Considered to be one of the greatest poets of the world, Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, whose astronomical imagery figured in his poetry, inspired generations across the world.
To commemorate his 40th death anniversary, a literary session titled “Remembering Pablo Neruda” featuring some of his poetical works was held at Kuch Khaas on Monday.
Writer and intellectual Raza Rumi, who moderated the session, gave a brief introduction of the personal and poetical development of the revolutionary poet.
“Pablo had a very rich and tumultuous life and reminds us of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who had similar periods of exile and ostrasization and yet he continued to write and compose poetry which spoke of general masses and of a better world,” said Rumi.
P Miranda, a Spanish journalist based in Islamabad, read out some of Neruda’s poems in Spanish, followed by their English translation.
A revolutionary, diplomat and a politician, Neruda is best known for his deeply political and engaging poetry.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Columbian Noble Laureate, great short-story writer, in his own right, called Neruda “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language”.
Born on July 12, 1904, Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto chose his pen name after the Czech poet Jan Neruda. Neruda served as a diplomat and a term as senator for the Chilean Communist Party.
He escaped to Argentina when Chilean President Gabriel Gonzlez Videla issued his arrest warrant after slapping a ban on the Communist Party in 1948. Later, he returned to Chile when President Salvador Allende-led socialist government came into power and became a close adviser.
In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Neruda died on September 23, 1973, under mysterious circumstances at the time of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who staged a coup against the democratically-elected President Allende.
According to some accounts, the military junta had a hand in his death. Pinochet denied permission to make his funeral a public event. However, thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew and crowded the streets to bid farewell to the country’s greatest poet.
Neruda wrote surrealist poems, historical epics, a prose autobiography, and love poems such as the collection of ‘Twenty Love Poems’ and a ‘Song of Despair’. He often wrote in green ink, which was his personal symbol for desire and hope.
At the event, Javaid Hassan Aly, a former bureaucrat and writer, rendered some of the poems in English.
“After Sunday’s tragedy in Peshawar, it is even more relevant to remember Pablo Neruda because he talked about the wellbeing of the common man, the unsung shepherd or a labourer, essentially exploited by the elite. He provided a voice and sincerity to humankind per se,” said Ali.
He called Pablo “sensitive, sensuous, sensual and sincere” as he read out his poetry. “Pablo’s commitment to socialism was unwavering and I have discovered a newfound Leftist in myself,” he said.
He read out some of his poems including the famous sonnet “I do not love you” and “Absence”.
He quoted many a great critic as calling Pablo “Canto XII: From the Heights of Macchu Pichhu,” the greatest political poem and he drew parallels with “Intesab” by Faiz.
Broadcaster and Journalist Murtaza Solangi read out some Urdu translations of Pablo’s work, including the soul-stirring “Aaj shab mein likh sakta hoon” by the Holland-based Pakistani writer Shamoon Saleem, who had sent in the work especially for the event.
In the end, the musician and social activist, Arieb Azhar read out select poetry in English. He also mesmerised the audience with his effortless renditions of Sufi poetry by Sheikh Ayaz and Bulleh Shah as well as the famous song “Imagine” by John Lenin. The evening ended on a high note with the audience singing along with Azhar as he strummed his guitar. The event was organised in collaboration with Radio FM99 and Lime Tree Cafe.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2013.