Friday, June 13, 2014

The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda

Title: The Book of Questions
Author: Pablo Neruda
Original Publication Date: 1974
Pages: 96

You don’t want to answer me.
But the questions do not die.
-(Neruda, 1924)

The Book of Questions is a collection of 316 questions that compose the 74 poems. 316 questions which no rational answers exists, says the introductory part of my copy. No rational answers may exist for these questions, but the rational mind will strive beyond conventions to grasp its meanings. If you will ruminate on this 74 poems, one will find that some answers do exist, albeit spiritual and mercurial answers validated by allusive affinities.

Neruda’s recurring style, his use of nature, and things from nature are indispensable aspects of his, but the only correspondence one will find between the poems is that they are questions, for various thematic characteristics are at play here.

There are some poems one must simply take in visually and revel in the imagery they invoke discarding their literariness.

If all rivers are sweet
where does the sea get its salt?
(Poem V)

For whom do the pistils of the sun burn in the shadow of the eclipse?
How many bees are there in a day?
(Poem XXI)

Some are consummately surrealistic.

What happens to swallows who are late for school?
Is it true they scatter
transparent letters across the sky?
(Poem VII)

Others would seem to be derived from pure sadness.

Do tears yet spilled
wait in small lakes?

Or are they invisible rivers
that run towards sadness?
(Poem LX)

Some are allusions and undeniably metaphors for diurnal activities.

Why does agriculture laugh at the pale tears of the sky?
(Poem XXX)

Some unequivocally express Neruda’s political beliefs.

And to position sad Nixon
with his buttocks over the brazier?
Roasting him on low
with North American napalm?
(Poem XV)

What forced labor does Hitler do in hell?
Does he paint walls or cadavers? Does he sniff the fumes of the dead?
Do they feed him the ashes of so many burnt children?
Or, since his death, have they given him blood to drink from a funnel?
Or do they hammer into his mouth the pulled gold teeth?
(Poem LXX)

And a handful refers to his personal thoughts on the reception of his poetry by the posterity.

What will they say about my poetry who never touched my blood?
(Poem X)

Some too were infused with wit.

And why did cheese decide
to perform heroic deeds in France?
(Poem XX)

The book of questions may just have something for everyone.

Other work by Pablo Neruda:
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (3 Stars

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates
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