Sunday, February 04, 2007

From Chile with love

I've finally started on my selections for the Winter Classics Reading Challenge. Considering I'm supposed to read five by the end of Febuary and I'm only 80 pages into The Obscene Bird of Night which is well over 400 pages, I'll be delighted if I manage to complete three! I'm finding the lack of time I seem to have free to devote to reading a real problem; I have so many commitments that take up hours each week that I might otherwise spend reading but I must also conclude that the material I've been reading recently isn't the type of literature that lends itself to being read quickly. With Donoso so far, I'm lost in the labyrinths of language and stream of consciousness just as the characters I've met get lost in the dusty passageways and courts of the casa they inhabit, and just as I think some sense is beginning to shine through the surreal surroundings something else is revealed which throws everything into question. Donoso really is an exceptionally effective writer.

Continuing the Chilean theme, here is my most beloved poem from Pablo Neruda, who Márquez referred to as "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language". I discovered Neruda by accident one morning. I pulled out a volume of his poems from the shelf in the book shop, and settled down to have a look through. Ella Fitzgerald was playing, I had the book shop to myself and there was the most wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. I've been in love with Neruda ever since (and am resolved to marry anyone who can write me poetry like his!). Read it slowly and feel what the poet feels.

Tonight I Can Write

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.


Eva said...

That's my favorite Neruda poem-I memorized it a couple years ago (my translation is slightly different). It's just so amazing.

BookGirl said...

Isn't Neruda just wonderful? Have you by chance seen the movie Il Postino? If not, you must rent it.

Sheri said...

Thats beautiful. Thanks.

Danielle said...

I really need to read poetry (I can't even say "more poetry"). I have heard Neruda is good. As for the classics challenge, I am giving up on that one. I will be lucky to get two read this month, let alone five!

Imani said...

Welcome back! I have always heard a lot about Neruda but have never tried his poetry so thanks for posting this.

Dark Orpheus said...

This poem is the one that won me over to Neruda. In particular, I often linger on these lines:

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Neruda is spot on. We never really "get over" past loves, because the heart still remembers the ones who left their mark on us.

Absolutely beautiful, isn't it?

Nyssaneala said...

Neruda is one of my favorite poets. I hope to one day be able to read his poems in Spanish. I have a book of his memoirs which is as equally wonderful.

The Traveller said...

Eva, this is my favourite Neruda poem too - although I have a few more to read!

Bookgirl, I have seen Il Postino and quite liked it. I heard recently that the book is even better though, so I'm going to try an get hold of it sometime.

Sheri, you're welcome! I always like to share my favourite poems.

Danielle, I know what you mean about the Classics challenge. I'm determined not to give up though!

Imani, congratulations on your mention in the Guardian last week! Glad you liked Neruda.

Dark Orpheus, the poem is beautiful. My favourite line is "My sight searches for her as if to go to her..." You really feel how lost the poet is.

Nyssaneala, I'm resolved to learn to read Spanish so I can enjoy Neruda in his original language! Might take me some time....

Lotus Reads said...

I've only just started on Neruda and enjoying the experience...this is a beautiful poem, thanks so much for sharing!