Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Book By Pablo Neruda

For years I have loved the poems in Pablo Neruda's book The Stones of Chile. My English version of the text is in a collection called Isla Negra (White Pine Press, 2001). But I have always wanted to see the original first edition, which features images by Chilean photographer Antonio Quintana alongside Neruda's poems. It's not an easy book to find, but this summer I located a copy through Abe Books.

This Spanish edition, published in 1960, has photos of the rocks that Neruda wrote about, like "The Lion" above. Other titles include "The Bull," "The Dead Sailor," "The Blind Statue," "The Great Stone Table." Here is an excerpt from the "The Lion":

A great lion arrived far afar
it was huge as silence...

It found only solitude.
It roared of shyness and hunger:
it could eat only air,
seafoam unpunished by the coast,
frozen sea lettuce,
breeze the color of birds...

Melancholy lion from another planet...

In the introduction to this book, Neruda says, "I came to live in Isla Negra in 1939 and the coast was strewn with these extraordinary presences of stone and they spoke to me in a hoarse and drenching language, a jumble of marine cries and primal warnings. Because of this, the book, adorned with portraits of creatures of stone, is a conversation that I open to all poets of the earth, so that it may be continued by all to encounter the secret of stone and of life."

While in very good condition overall, this book arrived imbued with a thick, musty old book smell. I couldn't look through it without sneezing. But there is a cure! I found this online. Here's what you do: Get a plastic box with a tight-fitting lid. Fill the bottom with kitty litter. Put the book in an open cardboard box inside the first box, then close the plastic lid. Leave it there until the smell is gone. It works! No more sneezing!