Book Review: Extravagaria by Pablo Neruda Translated by Alastair ReidPablo Neruda, one of the most famous and much loved poets worldwide, was a voracious writer of poetry, he never stopped writing, even on his death bed he penned some poetry, and all you have to do is look at the amount of books he produced in his life time to just see the range of exceptional work that any genius in love with the art of writing, with an appetite of a blue whale can pen through the love of word.

Extravagario, or in the translation by Alastair Reid, Extravagaria, is the title on one such book written by Neruda and in the words of the great man himself, one of his personal favorites. As it is well known, this book was to mark an important stage of his writing and his progress as a poet. Published in 1958, it was written when Neruda moved to Isla Negra on the Pacific coast in Chile after many years on wandering the globe.

Here, he wrote 68 poems for this book, rediscovering the sea, sky, land, pine trees, peace and solitude of the island that was to become his home, writing delicious lyric poetry that was much more personal than previous work.

Alastair Reids translations (1972) manage to elevate this poetry of the page and imbed it in your brain. These poems are deep in powerful images, music, sound, smells with a touch of surrealism and the picture of the poet, alone at his desk on this island writing away becomes all too clear, so clear you feel you are or want to be sitting right there at that moment.

In this book you will find poetry for everybody, even if you are not a fan of poetry there is no escaping the beauty of the words that speak in a universal tongue. Here you have humorous poems, political poetry, poems full of passion, joy, despair and especially love.

For instance, the beginning of the poem “For The Daylight Moon” beams an amazing image

Day moon, quivering
like a jellyfish in the sky,
what are you up to so early?

Neruda sees the world like no one else with wise hawk like eyes. In this book you get the feeling of a man, ready to settle down, to relax and find peace. Reids translations are exquisite, beautifully crafted staying as close to Neruda as possible in all sense of his feelings at the time, his craftsmanship, the music and flow, but especially the passion of words. I have re-read this book numerous times and on many occasions the poem ‘Forget About Me’, simply because it blows me away and makes the hair on the arms, stand to attention, what poetry should do, here is the first verse…

Among the things the sea throws up,
let us hunt for the most purified,
violet claws of crabs,
little sculls of dead fish,
smooth syllables of wood,
small countries of mother-of-pearl;
let us look for what the sea undid
insistently, carelessly,
what it broke up and abandoned,
and left behind for us.

This bilingual edition comes with the Spanish translation. It is pure magic and the book is full of delights, waiting to be discovered, especially if you are new to Neruda or have never come across these translations, in the world of Pablo Neruda, you will find joy and ecstasy, a poetry book highly recommended.

Where To Find It?

Be sure to check out your local book store  but it is difficult to find, and if you can not find it check out the books available at Amazon.  Or if you know me, feel free to borrow.

About The Author:

Now 82 years old, Alastair Reid is one of Scotland’s foremost literary figure.  He has written about Robert Graves, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cabrera Infante and Mario Vargas Llosa as-well as brilliant translations of poems by Pablo Neruda, Jorge Luis Borges and other important South American poets.