This is a very brief interview but gives us an insight into the mind of a wonderful, self deprecating poet.
Pablo Neruda was interviewed by Rita Guibert in 1970. The setting was the Isla Negra, Neruda’s favourite getaway and the theme for many of his poems. Neruda talked candidly about why he changed his name, political ideas and his staunch belief in Communism, and, of course, his poetry.
Neruda discussed his poetry in terms of his personal life, “A poet’s life must naturally be reflected in his poetry. That is the law of his trade, and one of the laws of life.” Neruda goes on to explain the different stages in his life and where the poems came from.
I thought it was interesting to hear his thoughts on all the different translations of his work:
RG (Rita Guibert) – In which language do the best translations exist?
PN (Pablo Neruda)– I would say in Italian, because there’s a similarity of values between the two languages. English and French, the only languages I know besides Italian, are languages which do not correspond to Spanish – neither in vocalization, nor in the placement, nor the color, not the weight of the words… It’s not a question of interpretive equivalents, no; the sense may be correct, indeed the accuracy of the translation itself, of the meaning, may be what destroys the poem. That’s why I think that Italian comes closest, because by keeping the values of the words, the sound helps reflect the sense… in French translations… my poetry seems to me to vanish.
Neruda has made the world laugh, cry, and even despair with his poetry, but what does the great man really think of his poetry?
RG – If you had to save one of your works from a fire, which one would you save?
PN – Possibly none of them. What am I going to need them for? I would rather like to save a girl… or a good collection of detective stories… which would entertain me much more than my own poetry.
And what does Pablo Neruda think of his critics?
PN – Oh, my critics! My critics almost shredded me to pieces. They have analyzed me and chopped me into little bits, with the utmost love or dislike. In life, as in work, one can’t possibly please everyone; it’s always the same thing. And one receives kisses or blows, caresses or kicks – that’s a poet’s life.
Neruda was ever the modest poet.