terça-feira, novembro 16, 2010

Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz: Clash of Literary Titans (First Part)

The poet Octavio Paz in Yucatan, Mexico
Photo: Manuel Alvarez Bravo Foundation
"It can take me months to write a poem! I correct it endlessly," Octavio Paz once confessed to Argentine photographer Sara Facio, when she was taking his portrait for a book about writers. That was in 1970, and he was marveling to Facio about the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, during a conversation at CambridgeUniversity in England. Paz found it incredible that Neruda had written a poem dedicated to the Chilean singer-songwriter Violeta Parra during the short trip from Isla Negra to Valparaiso. And Neruda's work would go straight to the printer without major corrections.

Pablo Neruda was ten years older than Octavio Paz and one of his intellectual mentors. Neruda had invited the Mexican poet and essayist to participate in the Second International Congress of Anti-Fascist Writers in Madrid in 1937; the first such event was in Paris in 1935. Neruda saw a great future for Paz, as he indicated in the only paragraph about him in his Memoirs (Confieso que he vivido): "Along with the Norwegians, the Italians, the Argentines, the poet Octavio Paz arrived from Mexico, after a thousand adventures and misadventures. I was proud of having brought him. He had published just one book [Raiz del hombre], which I had received two months before and which seemed to contain genuine promise. No one knew him yet."

Paz and Neruda, who had met in Paris in the 1930s, nearly came to blows in 1942, when Neruda was a consul in Mexico. The story of that encounter appeared 40 years after the fact, in an essay on modern poetry ("Laurel en la poesía moderna") that Paz wrote for Vuelta magazine in 1982. What set off the cultural sparring between Neruda and Paz was Laurel, an anthology of modern Spanish-language poetry published in 1940 by the Mexican publisher Seneca. The Spanish writer Jose Bergamin, who was an editor at Seneca, had assigned the task of compiling the anthology to two Mexican poets, Xavier Villaurrutia and Octavio Paz, and two Spanish poets, Emilio Prados and Juan .Gil Albert. Neruda was invited to contribute but refused, due to differences between him and Bergamin. Paz never knew what was behind Neruda's refusal, although it is believed the problem had to do primarily with Bergamin's exclusion of the Spanish poet Miguel Hernández from the anthology. In fact, there's a coded allusion to the Laurel anthology in Neruda's Canto General, in the poem "To Miguel Hernindez, Murdered in the Prisons of Spain." Neruda writes:

 Let the wretches who today
      Includes your name
   in their books--the Damasos,
      the Gerardos, the sons
   of bitches, silent accomplices of
      the executioner-know
   that your martyrdom
      won't be expunged, that your
   will fall on their entire moon of
   And to those who denied you in
      their rotten laurel....

According to Neruda biographer Adam Feinstein, literary critic Enrico Santi said that Paz began to distance himself from Neruda because he was furious that the Chilean had refused to participate in that anthology; the Spanish poet Leon Felipe had also declined to participate. Laurel was see as Paz's "personal baby." Mexico City literary circles began to divide into Nerudistas and anti Nerudistas (that is, pro-Paz writers).

Paz's version of the rupture with Neruda differs from Santi's interpretation. In November 1939, Neruda was happy to contribute to Paz's magazine Taller, and he offered him his unpublished poem "Discurso de las liras." In 1940, Neruda also gave him another text: a short introduction to the then-unknown Uruguayan poet Sara de Ibanez, in which he also criticized the Spanish poet Juan Ramen Jimenez, who had been a contributor to the magazine. The editorial board of Taller rejected the text, but Paz published the piece anyway. However, due to an "unforgivable error," Neruda's text was not mentioned on the cover. The same issue included some poems by Rafael Alberti dedicated to Neruda's enemy Bergamin. Neruda called Paz and told him, "Alberti is my brother, and those sonnets were dedicated to Bergamin before Alberti found out what had happened. You have been an accomplice in a plot against me."

Neruda and Paz then went a long time without seeing each other. Paz admitted that he didn't like certain of Neruda's personality traits: his heated jealousies, his reproaches, his aesthetic arguments (which were in fact political), his Stalinist "sickness." And according to Paz, Neruda considered anything that wasn't in line with his political convictions to be reactionary. That led to the final blowup, which took place in 1942, in the Centro Asturiano in Mexico City. It was a dinner in Neruda's honor. Among those in attendance were the writers Jose Luis Martinez and Enrique Gonzalez Martinez and the painter Jose Clemente Orozco. Neruda drank too much at the dinner. At the end of the evening, the writers and artists lined up to bid farewell to the Chilean poet. When it was Paz's turn, Neruda complimented him on his shirt, calling it "whiter than your conscience." He then insulted Paz's mother and grabbed the Mexican writer's shirt collar so hard that he tore part of it; then he started in on the authors of the "damned anthology." They almost came to blows. Poet Enrique Gonzalez Martinez took Paz by the arm and they left the Centro Asturiano with the writers Ali Chumacero, Jose Luis Martinez, and Jose Iturriga. Martinez invited everybody to a nightclub in vogue at the time and they ordered champagne that, according to Paz,  was !carsima!--very expensive
(To be continued).

FONTE: http://www.examiner.com/ 

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