Pablo Neruda Almost Did Not Win Nobel Prize for His ‘Communist Tendencies’

Pablo Neruda Almost Did Not Win Nobel Prize for His ‘Communist Tendencies’

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Pablo Neruda continues to be a notable figure in the world of literature and poetry.

The Swedish Academy pondered how Pablo Neruda’s odes to Joseph Stalin, the leader of erstwhile USSR, went with Alfred Nobel’s stipulation that the prize must go to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.”

According to newly-opened archives in Stockholm, it has been revealed that the panel at the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Prize in literature, had some qualms about late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda for his “communist tendencies.” The archives have revealed how the deliberations of the secretive members of the panel at the Swedish Academy went about before Neruda was announced the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. The discussions by the secret panel of judges were kept under wraps for 50 years. According to a report by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the panel of judges pondered how Neruda’s odes to Joseph Stalin, the leader of erstwhile USSR, went with Alfred Nobel’s stipulation that the prize must go to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.”

Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, who wrote under the pen name Pablo Neruda, certainly impressed the panel. A report by The Guardian states that the Nobel committee chair Anders Österling praised his “poetic natural power and dynamic vitality” but at the same time he also faced the dilemma of whether “the increasingly dominant communist tendency in his poetry is compatible with the purpose of the Nobel prize.” Svenska Dagbladet reports that Österling had written in 1963, “A writer’s way of thinking – whether Marxist, syndicalist, anarchist or something else – belongs to his free right. However, Neruda is fully politically involved, including through his hymns to Stalin and other purely propagandistic achievements. On that basis, I have reservations about his candidacy, without, however, wanting to firmly reject it in advance.” The report also adds that Österling continued to hold this opinion till 1971.

Neruda continues to be a notable figure in the world of literature and poetry. Some of his memorable works include Canto General, which was published in Mexico in 1950, and Cien sonetos de Amor (1959) which includes poems dedicated to his wife Matilde Urrutia. Memorial de Isla Negra, an anthology of an autobiographical character in five volumes, was published on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

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