|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
Cambridge University in . 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 England . And Neruda's work would go straight to the printer without major corrections. Valparaiso
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
Paz and Neruda, who had met in
Let the wretches who today
Includes your name
in their books--the Damasos,
the Gerardos, the sons
of bitches, silent accomplices of
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.
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 In November 1939, Neruda was happy to contribute to Paz's magazine Taller, and he offered him his unpublished poem "Discurso de las liras."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
(To be continued).