Synopses & Reviews
A career-spanning volume, charting the Nobel laureates work in the ode form
Pablo Neruda was a master of the ode, which he conceived as an homage to just about everything that surrounded him—from an artichoke to the clouds in the sky, from the moon to his own friendship with Federico García Lorca, from the seasons to his favorite places in Chile. He was in his late forties when he committed himself to writing an ode a week and in the end produced a total of 225, which are dispersed throughout his varied oeuvre. This bilingual volume, edited by Ilan Stavans, the distinguished translator and scholar of Latin American literature, gathers all the odes together for the first time in any language. Rendered into English by an assortment of accomplished translators that includes Philip Levine, Paul Muldoon, Mark Strand, and Margaret Sayers Peden, collectively they read like the personal diary of a man in search of meaning who sings to life itself, to our connections with one another, and to the place we have in nature and the cosmos. All the Odes is a lasting statement on the role of poetry as a lightning rod during tumultuous times.
"The Chilean Nobel laureate, who died in 1973, combined stratospheric powers of invention with a fecundity that bordered on the prolix; among his many creations were 225 'odes,' almost all in very short lines, connecting accessible, democratic vocabulary to exalted emotion. Most of the odes date from the 1950s; some odes on household objects (to a lemon, to a potato) remain much imitated in English. Stavans says he is the first to gather all the odes, including very late, very early, and more formal outliers. Stavans and a few lesser-known translators account for a large majority of translations here, though W. S. Merwin and Stephen Mitchell also appear. Along with a fishing boat, an elephant, vegetables, French fries, New Year's Day, and other this-worldly phenomena, Neruda's odes show both his communist and romantic sides, praising love itself, 'clarity,' 'broken things,' and V. I. Lenin. This enormous book provides an education of sorts into Neruda's contexts as well as his effusive mind. Daunting to read straight through, sometimes banal, the volume nonetheless has profuse delights: Neruda lauds seagulls 'as you are:/ your insatiable voraciousness,/ your screech in the rain,' while 'Ode to Laziness' begins 'Yesterday I felt this ode/ would not get off the floor.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Pablo Neruda (1904-73) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. His books include Residence on Earth, Canto General, Extravagaria, and Isla Negra.
Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He is also the editor of The Poetry of Pablo Neruda.