Pablo Neruda was without doubt one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.
However, his work is extremely uneven, and long. The companion examines the view that there are two Nerudas, an early Romantic visionary and a later Marxist populist, who denied his earlier poetic self.
By focussing on the poet's apprenticeship, his struggle to read and incorporate French poetry and travel abroad and by looking closely at how Neruda created his poetic persona within his poems, this companion tries to establish what should survive of his massive output.
By seeing his early work as self exploration through metaphor and sound, as well as through varieties of love and direct experience, the companion outlines a unity behind all the work, based on voice and a public self.
This companion studies Neruda's debt to reading and books in depth and re-examines his change in poetics by concentrating on the early work up to Residencia en la tierra I and II and why he wanted to become a poet.
Many critics have argued that some kind of critical assessment must be made in order for Neruda's later work to be read.
This companion grounds this debate about quality and representativity in his Romantic thinking, sensibility and sincerity.
Unlike a Borges or a Paz who accompanied their creative work with analytical essays, Neruda distilled all his experiences into his poems, which remain his true biography. Jason Wilson is Professor Emeritus at University College London.