Unique Pablo Neruda archive – and slice of history up for auction

(NB: First posted March 13, 2020)

A little over two years into the Spanish civil war, one of Spain’s greatest poets wrote to a Chilean friend to tell him how desperately he and a couple of their mutual acquaintances longed to escape the conflict and travel to South America. “We’ll come to your sad and beautiful land,” wrote Miguel Hernández in September 1938. “We have to leave, and we’ll rest from this fight, and we’ll breathe the air we lack.” 

Hernández, a goat-herder-turned-poet and staunch Republican, would never breathe Chilean air. He was dead within four years of writing the letter, his lungs eaten away by the tuberculosis he contracted after being shunted through a succession of baleful Spanish prisons. Along with more than 600 books, manuscripts, photographs, magazines, letters and postcards, Hernández’s missive to his Chilean correspondent, the poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda, now forms part of a unique and lovingly amassed collection dedicated to the Nobel-prize winner’s life and work that will be auctioned in Barcelona next week.

Julián Casanova – The Spanish Civil War, 80 years after

The collection is perhaps the finest Neruda archive in private hands. Among its treasures, put together over the past 25 years by the winemaker, poet and collector Santiago Vivanco, is a first edition of Neruda’s Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair, published in 1924. So rare was the book that the poet himself confessed that even he didn’t possess a copy. The book’s scarcity is further enhanced by the dedication, inscribed in Neruda’s trademark green ink: “For Gabriel García Márquez. My congratulations, dear friend, on this ‘find’ from nearly 50 years ago that even I don’t have. A hug. Pablo Neruda. Paris, 1971.”…