Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in Parral, Chile
in 1904 to a poor railway worker and a schoolteacher
who died of tuberculosis
during his infancy. At the age of ten, Basoalto began to write poetry
. At twelve years old, the budding poet met Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral
who encouraged his work. In 1920, while still in his teens, Basoalto published poems in the magazine Selva Austral
adopting the pen name Pablo Neruda because his family discouraged his writing efforts and did not approve of his literary ambition.
In 1924, Neruda grew to international acclaim with the publishing of Veinte poemes De Amor Y Una Cancion, which is even today one of his most widely read works. At 23, the young poet was appointed by the Chilean Government as consul in Burma. During his time in East Asia and various european countries following his appointment, Neruda befriended many other writers including Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Neruda married Maria Antonieta Hageenaar in 1936, but the couple's romance was brief and they seperated in 1936. In later parts of the decade and during the 1940s, Neruda lived with Argentinian painter Delia Del Carril who began to encourage Neruda in taking an interest in Left Wing politics. The couple married in 1943, but the marriage was unrecognized in Neruda's home country.
Neruda was appointed as Consul to Spain in 1935, but was forced to resign because of his siding with the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. As a consul in Paris in 1939, Neruda helped refugees from Spain resettle in Chile.
In 1943, (the same year he married Del Carril) Neruda joined the Communist Party. In 1945, he was elected to the Chilean Senate. Neruda was extremely critical of President Gonzalez Videla, and wrote several articles denouncing the right. When the goverment was taken over by right-wing extemists, Neruda feared for his life and fled to Mexico. During his exile, Neruda published Canto General, which consisted of over 340 poems. During this time, Neruda was awarded the Stalin Prize and the Lenin Peace Prize and the poet travelled extensively, visiting Russia and China.
In 1952, the political climate in Chile changed and the Videlista factions of the goverment were left powerless. The orders to arrest Political Leftists (including Neruda] were rescinded and Neruda returned home. Although he continued to travel, Neruda set up a permanent home in Chile on the Isla Negra. In 1955 he and Del Carril separated. He continued to write and produced volumes of poetry and verse drama at a prolific rate (over forty over his lifetime). In 1966, Neruda married Chilean Singer Matilde Urrutia who was the inspiration for many of his later love poems.
When the Socialist Dr. Salvador Allende was elected president, Neruda was appointed Chile's ambassador to France. Neruda died of leukemia in Santiago, Chile in 1973, shortly after the military coup that overthrew Allende and placed Pinochet in power.
Information taken from several sources, including: El viajero immóvil by Emir Rodríguez Monegal and the Books and Writers Databse