A Dwarf as GiantnPablo Neruda: Passions and Impressions;nFarrar, Straus & Giroux; NewnYork.nby Mary Ellen Foxnxlow does one cope with the phenomenonnof Pablo Neruda, Chilean poetnand 1971 Nobel Prize winner? He is obviouslynconsidered a great poet by manyn—at least by those who have been overwhelmednby his neo-Whitmanesque effusionsnor by the so-called charm of hisnodes to socks, watermelons, salt, andnother sundry items. Still others are enthrallednby that facet of his poetry whichncan only be described as socialist-reaUstnbombast and which includes a diatribenagainst the United Fruit Company and anpaean to a shoveler in the nitrate mines.nHowever, it is not Neruda the poetnbut Neruda the political essayist andnactivist that is in question here, sincenPassions and Impressions is primarily ancompendium of Neruda’s positions bothnintellectual and emotional. Neruda wasna fervent communist; the tenets of hisnfaith are party-line orthodox in the extreme.nHe sounds “plus Catholique quenle Pape” when he lashes out at “thenagents of North American imperialism”nsuch as Anaconda Copper and BethlehemnSteel, while describing Marx and Leninnas “a generation of extraordinary fathersnof hope . . . [and] new leaders of love.”nNeruda believed that “political strugglenis an integral part of poetry”; accordingly,nhis political commitments and contributionsnmust be given equal weight withnhis poetry. The most charitable thingnthat can be said about his beliefe is thatnthey are outrageously naive. This booknis well named, since there appears to bena minimum of cerebration in it and anmaximum of romantic feelings. Withnthe idealized image of communism andnthe cold fects of history continuously onna collision course, Neruda jettisonednDr. Fox’s degree is in Spanish literature.n121nChronicles of Cttlturenlogic and objectivity without blinkingnan eye. After the trials and the purges,nafter the gulag, after Hungary and Czechoslovakia,nand after an avalanche of revisionismnto the point where the gospelsnand heresies of the moment couldn’t bendetermined without a scorecard, Nerudanblindly persisted in his faith. In the worldnview of most Latin American intellectuals,nMarx and the State have replaced Christnand the Church. In a recent interview*,nMexican novelist Carlos Fuentesnexplained such religious adherence to annew creed this way: “We are the sons ofnrigid ecclesiastic societies. This is thenburden of Latin America—to go fromnone church to another, from Catholicismnto Marxism, with all its dogma andnrimal. This way we feel protected.” ButnNeruda went even fiirther than his fellowncoreligionists in that he was one ofnthe few who maintained absolute, unquestioningnloyalty to Moscow throughoutnhis Ufe.nEven the Latin American clergy tradenin the old faith for the new, improvednmodel. Nicaragua’s present Minister ofnCulmre, a poet who is also a priest, describesnhis own road to Damascus*:nIt was like a second conversion. Beforenthen, I ssw myself as a revolutionary,nbut I had confused ideas. I wasntrying to find a third way, which wasnthe Revolution of the Gospel, but then Insaw that Cuba was the Gospel put intonpractice. And only when I convertednto Marxism could I write religiousnpoetry.nWhen confronted with such a remark, anbelieving Christian must hesitate betweennlaughter and tears. This samenschizophrenic reaction occurs afternreading a speech of Neruda’s from 1968nreprinted here as “My Burning Faith innPeace.” Addressing an emissary from thenU.S.S.R, Neruda honors him for “repre-n•”Revolution and the Intellectual in Latin America,”nAfej/; York Times Magazine, March 13,1983.nnnsenting the greatest inspfration knownnto man. This inspfration is the existencenand the persistence, the unparalleledntriumphs, of the Soviet people and thengreat Revolution . . . that vast nation,ngoverned by a classless society, invariablynjoins in every movement for peacenand liberation manifested anywhere onnour planet.” There is still more: “Wenknow that the Soviet Union is a formidablenseedbed of modest but illustriousnheroes. The world still thrills at thenmemory of its glorious defense of peacenand liberty in crushing the threat of Hitler.nThose were somber and bloody days,nand humanity recognizes its immeasurablendebt to the Soviets.” Of course, wenall know how that modest but illustriousnhero Stalin single-handedly defeatednHider. Neruda continues by decryingnthe United States as Hitler’s hefr:nBut, terrified, we ask ourselves whethernsuch an unconceivable horror [asnWorld War II] might again befiiU history.nMore recently, we have seennhow peace, a peace so tragically obtained,nhas been betrayed. One statenmore powerfiil than the rest has carriedndeath and destruction to lands farndistant from its territory. With ferociousnviolence it has destroyed thencities, the cultivated fields, the buildings,nand the lives of a small nationnwhose people, proud of their ancientnculture, had only recently burst freenfrom their colonial chains.nAnd Neruda goes on to describe thencriminality of the U.S. actions in Vietnam,nwhile comparing our “genocide” therenwith the murder of Martin Luther King.n”He [King] was killed by abominable,nseemingly powerfiil forces. From thenunjust war in Korea to the disgraceful assaultnagainst the independence of Vietnam,nthese forces have been unleashednin North America as a poisonous byproductnof war. It is in ofiicial violencenthat we must seek the origin of thesencrimes. Two wars have taught thousandsnof young men the practice of killing andn