Was Pablo Neruda Murdered?

pablo_neruda “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
― Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

The man who wrote some of the most romantic verse in literature may have come to a very violent end. In 1973, just twelve days following the death of his close friend and political ally Salvadore Allende died, Neruda was found dead as well.  Allende was deposed by Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile for eight years, from 1973 to 1981.


Salvadore Allende


Augusto Pinochet

While the official cause was of Neruda’s death was  “complications due to prostate cancer,”  there has long been speculation that Neruda was poisoned, charges Neruda’s personal driver has leveled. In February, the court ordered that Neruda’s remains be exhumed for signs of foul play.

Some have objected to the exhumation, citing such things as the moist tropical soil that would degrade the body to such a state that any  traces would be long gone. Others argue that Chile’s forensics are not sophisticated enough to conduct a thorough analysis. Still, samples will be taken and sent elsewhere (location not announced) for the analysis.

We may never know for sure what took Neruda’s life.  But, of course, his words will live on. Here is one of my favorite of his many beautiful poems, translated by another of my favorite poets, W.S. Merwin:

Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest)

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is starry and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her,

and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.