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Spain in Our Hearts (1937)

by Pablo Neruda

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701380,656 (4.04)5
In 1936, Pablo Neruda was Chile's consul in Madrid, and so horrified by the civil war and the murder of his friend, Federico Garcia Lorca, that he started writing what became his most politically passionate series of poems,Spain in Our Hearts. The collection was printed by soldiers on the front lines of the war, and later incorporated into the third volume of Neruda's revolutionary collection,Residence on Earth. This bilingual New Directions Bibelot edition presentsSpain in Our Hearts as a single book as it was first published, a tribute to Neruda's everlasting spirit.… (more)
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When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Pablo Neruda was in Madrid, working as Chilean consul (his predecessor in the post was another poet and future Nobel laureate, Gabriela Mistral). Through the influence of friends like Federico García Lorca, he became a communist and was soon involved in the struggle on the Republican side.

Neruda's most famous contribution to the Republican cause was this short collection of poems about the war, most of them originally published in the soldiers' newspaper El mono azul in 1936 and 1937. The collection appeared in book form in Chile and France in 1938, but the most famous version was the November 1938 pamphlet produced in a limited edition for the armed forces in the renaissance print-shop of the former monastery of Montserrat, which was under Republican control at the time. As Neruda describes it in his memoirs, it was a highly romantic affair of self-taught comrades acting as typographers and shredding any rags they could find to make improvised paper. Sadly, the truth seems to have been a little more prosaic than that, but the myth reflects the quality of the book very well.

These are poems that really need to be declaimed in the open air, preferably standing on a captured enemy tank, or perhaps at the graveside of a fallen comrade. The tone is very exalted: there are invocations to solidarity and resistance, elegies for fallen soldiers and civilian casualties, tributes to the Mothers of Madrid, condemnations of the brutality of the Nationalist rebels, visualisations of what it will be like for Franco and his generals when they arrive in Hell, and so forth. In the middle of the book there is a tribute to pre-war Spain which ends in a fifty-line list of place-names.

It's propaganda, of course, and occasionally it goes too far (Neruda doesn't hesitate to play the racist card by repeatedly mentioning Franco's reliance on North African troops, "Moros"), but it's also transparently full of passion and straight from the heart in a time of crisis, and it's often very moving indeed. It struck me that there's a lot that would still work just as effectively if you replaced "Madrid" by "Kyiv" and "Franco" by "Putin". ( )
  thorold | Mar 3, 2023 |
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In 1936, Pablo Neruda was Chile's consul in Madrid, and so horrified by the civil war and the murder of his friend, Federico Garcia Lorca, that he started writing what became his most politically passionate series of poems,Spain in Our Hearts. The collection was printed by soldiers on the front lines of the war, and later incorporated into the third volume of Neruda's revolutionary collection,Residence on Earth. This bilingual New Directions Bibelot edition presentsSpain in Our Hearts as a single book as it was first published, a tribute to Neruda's everlasting spirit.

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