The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

Chilean fiction

Original title –  El caso Neruda

Translator – Carolina De Robertis

Source – review copy

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

I choose the first two verse of a poem by Neruda one of the few I read online that touched me a lot A dog has died source

There is nothing better than the unknown book falling through the letterbox at Winston towers such as it was with this book when it arrived .Souvenir press sent me this book I’m one that falls in love with covers and I did with this one with its great picture  of Neruda on the cover .Robert Ampuero has lived a life , in fact in some ways the way he has moved around the world he left his native Chile after the Coup in 1973 first to east Germany to study , then in Cuba back to Chile and then Sweden and finally in the US where he is the professor of creative writing at the university of Iowa .

“In that case , it’s time for you to read the Belgian ,” the poet continued forcefully .”Because if poetry transports us to heaven , crime novels plunge you into life the way it really is , they dirty your hands and blacken your face the way coal stains engine stokers on trains in the south ,where I was born ,I’ll lend you these volumes so you can learn something from Inspector Maigret .

Young Brule is given the task and told to read Maigret to help him with it by don Pablo .

Well  I for one had wanted to know more about Pablo Neruda , he has always been on my radar of some one to read , he of course one the Nobel  prize for literature but is one of the best known poets from Latin America .The book is an imagined journey around the world by a young man on behalf of Pablo Neruda . The young man Cayetano Brule is a young private in the Cuban army where he is given a task to help Don Pablo , the job is to be a detective of Don Pablo’s life to retrace the woman he loved and left through out his life .Don Pablo ask the young man if he has read any crime fiction to help him along the way , he says he has read he says some Christie , Chandler and of course Holmes .At this point Don Pablo says he needs to read Simenon detective Maigret (he is not the only one I’ve read a lot as you all know this year as well ) so Neruda sends his private Maigret to rediscover his former loves , this journey takes him Berlin ,Cuba , Mexico and Bolivia as he follows the woman who meant something in Neruda’s life .

The poets large brown eyes grew more alert , as they always did when he was talking about women .Cayetano already knew this expression with its fleeting , youthful glow “A young woman , then. How old ? ”

“She was a teenager in the early sixties so today she should be around thirty ”

Don Pablo talking about on of his women as he sends his private to find out what happened to her .

The book is about an old man wanting to find out about his life and using this younger man to in some way recapture his youth , but also do that thing which we all do from time to time and that is to recapture one’s old loves .Alongside this we see the world Neruda lived in and how his shifting views on the world , also reflected at times the moving views in the world he had lived in .The coups,  political changes ever shifting politics of Latin America in the 20th century , all this viewed through the eyes of this young man who dreams of being a great writer like Don Pablo is .Don Pablo is painted with a loving eye , you can tell that Roberto Ampuero is a huge fan of this man , he even says in his after word how when he was younger he could see Pablo Neruda house from his own house , the room he was aware of with the huge chair by the window that Pablo Neruda used to sit in .I always love the way Latin American writers twist the detective novel as a form , Ampuero has twisted it to both be a great detective novel , but also a great piece of biography and also a look at the history and politics at the time of Neruda’s life .I was also left with the wanting to buy a collection of Neruda’s poetry .

Have you read Neruda ?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 00:45:29

    No, haven’t read him, but I will now!
    (I love the cover too).


  2. roughghosts
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 04:35:57

    I have a Neruda story. I once saw a poem by Neruda in a photograph taken by a friend of mine in Australia (I belong to a huge forum of Pentax camera users, the geeks of the the photo world). Anyhow Jack’s photo was of this poem (Love Sonnet Number XVII I believe) and it had been typed up and tacked to a post. I checked the bookstores and took out large volumes of Neruda’s poetry from the library but none had a translation that caught exactly the beauty of the one I first saw. It made me question the challenge of poetry in translation and so, to date, I do not actually own any of his works.


  3. hastanton
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 05:52:01

    Sounds very interesting . Definitely will read some now


  4. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 09:16:08

    This sounds fab Stu – I shall be looking out for it!


  5. vicky blake
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 17:18:03

    I first bought some Neruda poetry after seeing the film Il Postino in 1994 and finding it incredibly touching. I loved his poetry.


  6. BookerTalk
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 22:14:58

    i’ve not read any Neruda but I like the sound of a detective story that is about finding ones past.


  7. Mytwostotinki
    Nov 07, 2014 @ 11:38:32

    Neruda has a very romantic image that is supported by books like this one or by movies like Il Postino. Less romantic and a reason why I have a problem with this poet is the fact that he was working in his younger years as an agent for the GPU/NKWD and was involved in the Trotzky assassination and a few other wet jobs Stalin’s killers did in Republican Spain, unoccupied France and Latin America.
    The book sounds interesting and I wonder if it just repeats the romantic legend of Neruda or digs a little bit deeper in his past.


  8. Trackback: Winston’s books of the year | Winstonsdad's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

November 2014


%d bloggers like this: