I Explain a Few Things Selected Poems

Pablo Neruda; Edited by Ilan Stavans

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

384 Pages



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"Laughter is the language of the soul," Pablo Neruda said. Among the most lasting voices of the most tumultuous (in his own words, "the saddest") century, a witness and a chronicler of its most decisive events, he is the author of more than thirty-five books of poetry and one of Latin America's most esteemed writers. His work, oscillating from epic meditations on politics and history to intimate reflections on animals, food, and everyday objects, is filled with humor and affection.

This bilingual selection of more than fifty of Neruda's poems, edited and with an introduction by the distinguished Latin American scholar Ilan Stavans and translated by an array of well-known poets, also includes some poems previously unavailable in English.


Praise for I Explain a Few Things

"Stavans' objective in this bilingual selection is smaller if no less ambitious: ‘to distill the poet's exuberance to its most essential' . . . This is a hefty task: Neruda's collected works total some six thousand pages, and Stavans admits in the introduction that Neruda ‘left us an overdose of bad poetry.' Still, ‘an unsmoothed Neruda is better than a censored Neruda,' he contends. ‘To fully appreciate the sublime, it helps to meddle with the unworthy.' Stavans succeeds in presenting an ‘unsmoothed' Neruda, who, he argues, is more ideological than the romantic hero moviegoers met in Il Postino."—Carrie Fountain, Austin American-Statesman

"Perhaps the most popular modern poet in the world, the Chilean-born Neruda (1904–1973) won the Nobel Prize for an enormous body of verse that includes introspective lyrics of love and lust; sinuously enthusiastic elemental odes to artichokes, watermelon, salt, Walt Whitman and the human eye; declamations in favor of the labor movement, the Communist Party and the working people of any nation; and involuted late poems of self-doubt. Perhaps no serious writer of verse since Whitman has combined so much scholarly attention with so much enthusiasm in a broad international public: unlike some Latin American peers to whom he paid homage, Neruda even at his most ambitious remained clear in his passions. Memoirist, critic and translator Stavans has culled this useful portable volume, with its facing-page English and Spanish from his far larger (1,040 pages) Poetry of Pablo Neruda (2003), while adding a few translations not included there: translators include Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin and Stavans himself. A particular attraction is Scottish poet Alastair Reid's version of Autumn Testament, Neruda's mid-career retrospect: I've been a great flowing river, the poet asserts, with hard ringing stones, with clear night-noises,/ with dark day-songs."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Pablo Neruda; Edited by Ilan Stavans

  • Pablo Neruda (1904–73) was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971. His books include Residence on Earth, Canto General, Extravagaria, and Isla Negra. Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College.

  • Pablo Neruda
  • Ilan Stavans