It’s Pablo Neruda’s Birthday: Where Is His Body Going Now?

Since one of my co-editors sent me a link to celebrate Pablo Neruda’s birthday and to give me «inspiration» for my next post I thought I would go ahead and follow his suggestion (thanks James). Both James and I have been following the recent movements of the Chilean poet’s remains (you can read my previous post here and James’ insights here) and now there are new developments. It seems that Neruda, or at least a part of him, will be taking a trip to Spain. An article published by BBC reported that an independent study of Neruda’s remains will be done by a lab in Spain to corroborate the findings from North Carolina. The preliminary reports indicate that the poet did, in fact, die from prostate cancer. Maybe this decision to get a second opinion is in hopes that Neruda could still become even more iconic. Dying from a dictator’s secret poison is much more epic than succumbing to metastasized prostate cancer. Either way Neruda remains part of the public conscious. In this article from buzzfeed.com (the one James sent to me) the challenge is to decide whether certain lines were written by Pablo Neruda or Taylor Swift. Neruda’s poetry continues to circulate and his 20 poemas de amor continue to help teenagers everywhere express their deepest feelings about love. As his poetry makes its way around the globe now so do his remains. A more reverent student of Latin American literature may say that Neruda must be turning over in his grave for being paired up with Taylor Swift, but he has no grave to turn in.

As I think about Neruda’s importance it is now associated with other unsettled bodies from history. I remember seeing tabloids about Hitler’s body.

I couldn't find the one I saw as a kid but here is something similar. Source:  http://flickeflu.com/photos/62440303@N04
I couldn’t find the one I saw as a kid but here is something similar. Source: http://flickeflu.com/photos/62440303@N04

One said he was really a woman with a poorly photoshopped image of his body on an examination table with exposed breasts. Then I think of Einstein’s brain (it has its own Wikipedia entry) being examined after his death in an attempt to discover the source of his genius. There are plenty of other mythical and historical bodies that could come to mind but as we (at least James and I) continue to follow Neruda’s post-humus dispersion around the globe I wonder if this narrative will augment his mythos. His exhumation, the analysis of his remains, the second international investigation of the poet’s body in an attempt to establish his victim-hood all seem like something that Roberto Bolaño would have imagined. A legion of graduate students and professors on a mission around the globe to follow the remains of a poet is not a story far from Detectives Salvajes or 2666.

Why isn't Bolaño around to write about this? Tinajero, Archimboldi and Neruda...
Why isn’t Bolaño around to write about this? Tinajero, Archimboldi and Neruda…

Although this story might seem strange it is exactly the kind of thing a generation of writers and critics have been waiting for. So to celebrate Neruda’s birth we can take part in this great new narrative of his post-humus adventures. Its moments like these when I wish that Neruda’s (maybe) fellow victim of cancer were still alive to provide us with his commentary.   

3 comments

  1. Wow… I hadn’t seen Neruda v. Taylor Swift on Buzzfeed yet. So thank you for that.

    Now, I’m trying to think of how Bolaño would write about his death. We would at some point have to cross the deserts of Sonora, so we might as well start there. Meet you in a week in Santa Teresa?

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