Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chilean Whimsy


I lived in Chile for a year, and during that time, I was able to visit all three of Pablo Neruda's homes - in Santiago, Valparaiso, and Isla Negra.  I've posted some photos above from my time in Valparaiso, an UNESCO World Heritage city known for its many hills, old wooden elevators, and colorful, cobblestoned streets.  An eccentric, rough and tumble port city, it is one of the most unique and memorable places I've ever been.

Neruda's houses (now museums), are quirky and whimsical, designed to have a nautical feel.  As he traveled throughout Africa, Asia and Europe, Neruda collected a variety of objects including keys, bottles, clocks, sea glass, and nautical instruments.  These objects may seem mundane to us, but they were treasures to Neruda.

What shaped Neruda as a child, before becoming one of the world's most beloved poets? The tender, honest, and sophisticated new novel The Dreamer, written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sis, provides insight into Neruda's early fascination with objects in his daily life.  Called absentminded and a daydreamer by his domineering father, Neruda was drawn to poetry from an early age.   Born Neftali Reyes, he changed his name to Pablo Neruda just before starting college in Santiago.  The Dreamer captures the struggle between doing what one loves, and following the expectations our parents put upon us.  You'll likely pick it up and not put it down until you are done (about an hour or two)!  While the library has categorized The Dreamer as "juvenile fiction," both young readers and adults alike would likely enjoy this fictionalized account of Pablo Neruda's childhood.

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