Solitude and Multitude

Tony Gould

  • Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence by Luis Poirot, translated by Alastair Reid
    Norton, 185 pp, £25.00, March 1991, ISBN 0 393 02770 8
  • Adios, Poeta by Jorge Edwards
    Tusquets Editores, 335 pp, ptas 1,800.00, November 1990, ISBN 84 7223 191 7

According to his friend from a younger generation, the Chilean writer and diplomat Jorge Edwards, the most enigmatic thing about Pablo Neruda was the way he could switch in one bound, so to speak, from solitude to sociability. This poet of the sea and of lonely places was also one of the most gregarious people Edwards has ever known. Neruda discusses the contrasting attractions of ‘solitude and multitude’ in his Memoirs:

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[*] Canto General, translated by Jack Schmitt (University of California Press, 407 pp., $35, 28 March 1991, 0 520 05433 4) and Elemental Odes, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden (Libris, 375 pp., £40 and £12.95, 30 May 1991, 1 870352 63 7).