By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda

September 23rd was the 50th death anniversary of the Chilean literary icon.

By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda
By and On Neruda: The Return Of Pablo Neruda

Yesterday, September 23, marked the 50th death anniversary of one of the finest and greatest poets of the 20th century, the Chilean Pablo Neruda. Neruda was a Nobel Prize-winning poet who was also a one-time Chilean Communist Party senator. The last days of Neruda were spent under Chile’s worst military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. No one was allowed to attend Neruda’s funeral.

This tribute to Neruda a half-century after his death will consist of two parts: one of his lesser-known political poems and a poem by way of a subcontinental tribute to him.

Neruda’s aforementioned poem simply titled United Fruit Company written in 1950 harks back to the days when the infamous multinational company not only came to control vast tracts of land in Central and South America in the opening decades of the last century, but also the political destinies of these lands so much so that these countries became little more than ‘banana republics’ referenced to in Neruda’s poem as well; the bananas also being a pun on the chief exports of these countries now controlled by the Company. The violent suppression of a workers’ strike in 1928 came to be known as the ‘Banana Massacre’; estimates of the number of dead range from 47 to 2,000.

The poem will strike a chord with both Indian and Pakistani readers given that united India itself was ruled by a multinational known as the East India Company which made and unmade the governments of Indian princely states and brutalized and terrorized Indian citizens through its blatant policy of divide and rule in the early 19th century in a rapacious and callous manner not entirely different from the United Fruit Company in Latin America a century later.

When the trumpet blared everything

on earth was prepared

and Jehovah distributed the world

to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,

Ford Motors and other entities:

the United Fruit Inc.

reserved for itself the juiciest,

the central seaboard of my land,

America’s sweet waist.

It re-baptized these lands

as “Banana Republics,”

and over the slumbering corpses,

upon the restless heroes,

who conquered renown,

freedom and flags,

it established the comic opera:

it alienated self-destiny,

regaled Caesar’s crowns,

unsheathed envy, drew

the dictatorship of flies:

Trujillo flies, Tacho flies,

 Carías flies, Martinez flies,

Ubico flies, flies soaked

in humble blood and jam,

drunk flies that drone

over the common graves,

circus flies, clever flies

versed in tyranny.


Among the bloodthirsty flies

the Fruit Co. disembarks,

ravaging coffee and fruits

for its ships that spirit away

our submerged lands’ treasures

like serving trays.


Meanwhile, in the seaports’

sugary abysses,

Indians collapsed, buried

in the morning mist:

a body rolls down, a nameless

thing, a fallen number,

a bunch of lifeless fruit

dumped in the rubbish heap.

Ahmad Salim, the Punjabi poet, historian, anthologist, archivist, researcher and compiler, is regarded as one of the greatest living Punjabi poets at the moment. In his little-known Punjabi poem Neruda Wapis Aave Ga (Neruda Will Return) written in 1981, eight years after the great Chilean poet’s death, Salim writes:

O cheek cheek ke aakhdi ae

 “Main Pablo Neruda di mehboob kurri

 Ohda picha nai chaddan gi

Kameena daur gaya si ik din

Mainoon kalyaan chad ke

Te ja lukiya ae ik khandaq vich

Jang mukaa taan main ohnoon

Khandaq vich ja pharaan gi

Dharoh ke baahir liyaavan gi”

Pablo Neruda di mehboob kurri

Bolde bolde

Achanak sofe te dig paindi ae

Te haari hoi aavaaz vich puchdi ae

“Par jang kadon muke gi?”

This belated tribute to Neruda by Ahmad Salim, is being presented here in original English translation in the hope that it will stimulate new, deserved interest in Neruda’s life and works for the younger generations in the 21st century, and acquaint the uninitiated with the stormy life of one of the greatest benefactors of the Spanish language. It maybe simply read as the sigh of an abandoned beloved or between the lines as a lyrical anti-war poem:  

 (She says screaming

“I am Pablo Neruda’s beloved girl

I will not leave him alone

The scoundrel ran away one day

Leaving me alone

And hid away in a trench

End the war then I will

Bail him out from the trench”

Pablo Neruda’s beloved girl

While talking

Suddenly falls down on the sofa

And in a defeated voice asks

“But when will the war end?”

Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader based in Lahore, where he is also the president of the Progressive Writers Association. He can be reached via email: and on Twitter: @raza_naeem1979