In Chile, Where Pablo Neruda Lived and Loved
The idea of paying a visit to Pablo Neruda’s home in Santiago had come as an afterthought. My husband, Jim, and I had been traveling through Chile, with a single day to spend in the capital.
Riding the funicular to the top of Parque Metropolitano, the classic tourist activity, seemed like a requirement. When we got to the bottom again, it deposited us a block away from La Chascona, the house the poet bought in 1951 (while still married to his second wife, Delia del Carril) for his then-secret lover, Matilde Urrutia. A promising stop, perhaps, but I kept my expectations low.
乘坐缆索铁路到大都会公园(Parque Metropolitano)山顶游玩，似乎是游客们必选的经典旅游项目。回到山下时，我们距离La Chascona只有一个街区。那是聂鲁达1951年为秘密情人玛蒂尔德·乌鲁蒂亚(Matilde Urrutia)购买的房产（他那时仍与第二任妻子德里娅·德尔卡里尔[Delia del Carril]保持着婚姻关系）。或许值得一看吧，但我也没抱太高期望。
I’ve taken a fair number of house tours on my travels — often discovering that all the things I’d most like to see (the artist’s paintings, her desk or painting studio) were either sold off or sent to museums. Take the artist out of the house and what you are likely to have, more often than not, is a collection of rooms and some old furniture. (One striking exception: Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s house in Mexico City.)
我在旅行时参观过不少名人故居，结果总是发现，我最渴望一睹为快的东西（艺术家主人的画作、她的书桌或画室）要么已经变卖，要么送到了博物馆。抛开艺术家不谈，多数时候，你能看到的只是一些房间还有旧家具（但有一个例外：弗里达·卡罗[Frida Kahlo]在墨西哥城的故居蓝房子[Casa Azul]）。
My intention was to pick up a book of Neruda’s poetry at the gift shop. These last few nights on our trip, I suggested to Jim, he and I could read poems out loud to each other and maybe memorize a few. We’d devote some time to our Spanish. That, and romance. Who better to fan the flames than Neruda?
The moment I stepped into the garden at La Chascona, I revised my plan. “I’m going to need to spend a lot of time here,” I whispered to Jim, checking my watch. I was already concerned that the two hours left before closing time might not be sufficient.
Jim knows that I am an incurable collector of the kind of things some people may call junk. I call them treasures. Now, at the home of Neruda, the Nobel-winning Chilean poet and champion of the left, I had discovered a kindred spirit.
I hadn’t even gotten through the front door of this house, but already, just at the sight of the garden, my heart was racing the way it does when I encounter a particularly enticing junk store, or a salvage yard, or a promising-looking yard sale. And this place possessed qualities of all those.
But something else, too: an element not unrelated to Neruda’s poetry. If his relationship with Matilde was, as he represented it in his poems, the great love of his life, this house was the stage set against which he envisioned the two of them playing it out. “Here are the bread — the wine — the table — the house,” he wrote in “One Hundred Love Sonnets.” “A man’s needs, and a woman’s, and a life’s.”
What I recognized, even at the entryway — with its ragtag assemblage of wrought-iron garden furniture and mosaic tile inlays, the mural of birds and vines winding around the arched door, the hand-forged circular staircase and glass balls from ships’ buoys and orange trees and sculptures of angels — was that whatever fondness I might feel for Neruda’s poetry, my truest kinship with this man who died over 40 years ago would be with his sense of interior decoration.
In fact, “interior decoration” is an insufficient phrase. As much as he was a poet, Neruda was a collector of things, a builder of homes and a designer of fantastical spaces.
La Chascona (the name refers to the wild tangle of Matilde’s hair, a recurring element in his poems) is the kind of house I love best — the fabulous, wacky, excessive creation of a man for whom objects took on deep emotional meaning — not necessarily for their intrinsic value, and possibly not for their conventional beauty either, but as an expression of the dreams of the person who assembled them.
This place is also — with its never-ending birdsong, the trickling waterfall meandering through the property, the tinkling chimes — the home of a true romantic, filled with symbols and talismans and secret messages to his lover, only a fraction of which (I’m guessing) will any visitor comprehend. Up to the day of my visit, all I knew was that Neruda had written “Veinte Poemas de Amor.” But this whole house was a love poem.
La Chascona bears no resemblance to places like Monticello, in Virginia, or Versailles, or — a personal favorite — the Isabella Stewart Gardner home in Boston, now a great museum. Unlike those places, you won’t find the rooms designed by Neruda in books of great interior design — no Louis XVI chairs, or tasteful but predictable furniture groupings. In a Neruda house, you may find a taxidermied flamingo overhead, or a life-size bronze horse, or a 50-times-larger-than-life-size man’s shoe.
La Chascona一点也不像弗吉尼亚的蒙蒂塞洛庄园，或者凡尔赛宫。它也不像波士顿的伊莎贝拉·斯图尔特·加德纳(Isabella Stewart Gardner)之家，那里如今是一间很棒的博物馆，是我的最爱。与这些地方不同，你不会在室内装潢作品中找到聂鲁达的房间设计——这里没有路易十六时期风格的扶手椅，也没有品位高雅但毫无新意的组合家具。在聂鲁达的房子里，你会在头顶发现一只火烈鸟的标本，看到一匹真实大小的铜马，或是一只比实物大50倍的男鞋。
And that’s what I found myself loving. Those houses out of Architectural Digest may be lovely, but give me a room that tells something about the person who lived there — a room that displays a sense of humor, a sense of drama, and most important, a passionate soul.
Neruda was a sensualist. You can see it in his poetry: “I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair. Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets. Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps. …”
But you can also see it in his living spaces. One step through the low, narrow entry to the dining room and we knew: The man who lived here loved to eat. The dining table is long, and set with English china and Mexican glassware, wonderful odd serving dishes, chairs arranged surprisingly close, in a way that suggests warmth and conviviality.
It’s clear where Neruda must have presided: at the head. From my audio tour, I learned that he favored dressing up for parties. He kept a collection of hats for these occasions, and sometimes he might paint on a mustache. He liked to make an entrance, through a small special door opening into the room. The kitchen remained strictly off-limits. A magician does not display how the magic is made to happen if he wants to maintain the fantasy.
I can list here only a fraction of the furnishings and objects that stood out. By themselves, some might appear ugly — even tacky. But as the collage artist Joseph Cornell could have told us, art happens in the assemblage.
At La Chascona we found reproductions of a cheaply framed Caravaggio, stuffed animals, ’60s-style Formica and a mobile (also pure 1960s) featuring staring eyes, mounted alongside African masks. There was also a leather couch from France, an original ceramic head by Léger and a portrait of Matilde by Neruda’s friend Diego Rivera, commemorating the Medusa-like red hair that gave La Chascona its name.
在La Chascona，我们发现了装裱简陋的卡拉瓦乔作品的复制品，毛绒动物玩具，60年代风格的福米加(Formica)家具塑料贴面，还有一个大眼睛的活动雕塑（也是纯粹的1960年代），旁边放着几张非洲面具。这里还有一只法国皮沙发，莱热(Léger)的原版瓷器头像，以及聂鲁达的友人迭戈·里维拉(Diego Rivera)为玛蒂尔德制作的雕像，亮点是让这座房屋得名的她美杜莎似的红发。
When we got to the bedroom, I had the sense that I shouldn’t be in this place. The passion of the man for this particular woman seemed too great for a parade of tourists to pass through with headsets. (“Two happy lovers make one bread, a single moon drop in the grass,” he wrote. “Walking they cast two shadows that flow together; waking, they leave one sun empty in their bed.”).
The bed is covered with a simple white cloth. On the dressing table: a bottle of Chanel No. 5 and a hand mirror, not a lot more. Still, a scent of passion emanates.
In the gift shop after our tour, I stocked up on books by Neruda and a Neruda-style cap for my husband. But our visit to La Chascona had left me wanting more — not of the poetry so much as the man and his houses.
We had planned to spend the remainder of our trip in Santiago. But upon learning that Neruda had two other homes that he and Matilde occupied — simultaneously — over the last 20 years of his lifetime, I became a woman possessed. I suggested to Jim (no, there was more urgency than that) that we add to our itinerary a pilgrimage to those other houses — one, La Sebastiana, in the city of Valparaíso; the other, Casa de Isla Negra, a couple of hours from there, on the rocky Chilean coast.
我们原计划把剩下的时间留给圣地亚哥。但是在得知聂鲁达还有另外两处故居，以及他和玛蒂尔德在他人生最后20年住在那里之后，我就像着了魔一样。我向吉姆提议（不，比提议更加迫切）去参观这两处故居——一处是瓦尔帕莱索的La Sebastiana，另一处是Isla Negra，建在智利岩石遍布的海岸上，距离前一个有几小时的路程。
It’s one of the things I love best when traveling: those moments your well-made plans and itineraries get tossed aside for a spur-of-the-moment expedition to explore some place you never even knew existed, until you were there.
An hour later, we had the whole thing arranged: a rental car to take us to Valparaíso. A hotel room for one night. To be followed, after our visit to La Sebastiana, by a drive to Isla Negra.
一小时之后，我们安排好了一切：租一辆车去瓦尔帕莱索。订了一晚的酒店。参观完La Sebastiana之后，再驱车去Isla Negra。
Jim loves to drive, and to drive fast, and so our chosen vehicle was a top-of-the-line BMW 285 M convertible. We were hot on the Neruda trail now, or at least I was, with Jim at the wheel. It was a romantic quest, in a way (“Two for the Road,” minus Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn). I wanted to see all three of the houses where the relationship between Pablo and Matilde had played out. But really what I wanted to know were the stories of the two who had inhabited them.
吉姆喜欢开车，而且喜欢开得很快，因此我们选择了一辆顶级的宝马285M敞篷车。我们很激动，至少我是这样。这在某种程度上是一次浪漫的探险（有点像《俪人行》[Two for the Road]，只不过少了艾尔伯特·芬尼[Albert Finney]和奥黛丽·赫本[Audrey Hepburn]）。我想要把见证了巴勃罗和玛蒂尔德爱情的三处故居全部参观一遍。但是实际上，我真正想了解的是他们的故事。
The drive to Valparaíso took us through gorgeous countryside, including many Chilean wineries. Twenty miles down the highway, with the sky threatening rain, we gave up on our top-down experience, but even so, I liked to imagine how it must have been for Pablo and Matilde, leaving behind their beloved home in the capital for the new place high on a hill known as Florida, overlooking the crazy port city of Valparaíso where no streets seem to run parallel to each other and many are one-way, though lacking the signs to tell you this.
La Sebastiana was purchased in 1959 from the estate of an architect, Sebastián Collado, who had died before construction was completed, and for whom the house is named. While Neruda bought La Chascona on his own, as a surprise for his lover, he and Matilde (now his third wife) bought La Sebastiana together. They celebrated its opening in 1961 with one of their famous dinner parties, and later with New Year’s celebrations where friends gathered to watch fireworks over the harbor.
La Sebastiana是1959年从建筑师塞巴斯蒂安·科利亚(Sebastián Collado)手中购买的房产，后者在房子完工之前去世。房屋以他的名字命名。尽管聂鲁达为了给情人惊喜，独自购买了La Chascona， La Sebastiana却是他和玛蒂尔德（第三任妻子）共同购买的。他们在1961年庆祝房屋竣工，举办了一场著名的晚宴，在随后的新年庆祝活动中，友人们聚集在海港观看了焰火。
We spent an afternoon and night exploring Valparaíso — enough time for Jim to characterize the place as an intoxicating mix of New Orleans and San Francisco’s Mission District, combined with a little of the Latin Quarter in Paris: pisco sours in a dive bar playing ’30s jazz; cobbled streets winding down to the water; murals and funiculars and pots spilling over with flowers; dogs in the road.
Next morning, we made our way to La Sebastiana. As with La Chascona, this Neruda home features an entryway of tangled greenery and mosaic walkways, hidden gardens, staircases, low doors and ceilings that give a person the feeling of being on a ship — which was precisely Neruda’s idea. Though he never took an interest in being at the helm of a boat, the nautical themes are everywhere in his houses.
第二天早上，我们来到了La Sebastiana。与La Chascona一样，聂鲁达的这处房子也有一个长满了盘根错节植物的入口，以及镶嵌着马赛克瓷砖的走廊，秘密花园，楼梯间，低矮的门和天花板，让人感觉好像在一条船上——这正是聂鲁达的设想。尽管他从来没兴趣真正驾驭一条船，房子里海洋的主题无处不在。
Here, too, is a whole room dedicated to a bar, and a dining table set with more colored glasses, and a dressing table for Matilde and, at the foot of the bed, a toy sheep purchased by Neruda, late in life, to replace one he had loved and lost as a motherless child decades earlier.
There’s a carousel horse and a music box and a collection of wooden ships, and maps (one dating from the 17th century). As always, Neruda has made himself a wonderful writing room, filled with photographs of the poet with his many famous friends (Picasso and Marcel Marceau, among them) and his writer heroes (Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman), along with pictures from the day in 1971 when he received the Nobel Prize.
屋里还有一只旋转木马和一个音乐盒，一套木船收藏品，几张地图（其中一张可追溯到17世纪）。聂鲁达给自己打造了一间美妙的写作室，到处是这位诗人与名人朋友（其中有毕加索[Picasso]和马歇·马叟[Marcel Marceau]）以及杰出作家（埃德加·爱伦·坡[Edgar Allan Poe]、沃尔特·惠特曼[Walt Whitman]）的合影，还有他1971年荣获诺贝尔奖时拍摄的照片。
As in his other houses, the office features a collection of bronze hands, and a sink beside the desk so he could indulge his habit of washing his hands before getting to work on his day’s writing. His houses make plain: If the poet had an insatiable appetite for food, and love, and ships’ models, and wine, he also possessed a strong work ethic.
He wrote in the early hours. The afternoons were reserved for seeing friends and hunting down treasures, a fact that left me imagining what a collector like Neruda would have done had eBay existed in his time. More bronze hands and ship paintings, perhaps. Fewer poems.
With one day left before our flight home, we got back in the BMW, tearing off to the coast to the last Neruda house, with the plan of touring it that afternoon, then racing back to the city to board our plane. We were cutting it close (which allowed Jim to experience the BMW at 120 miles an hour during one impressive moment of passing), but compulsion had taken over now.
The route to Isla Negra goes through a series of small towns before reaching the coast. Even when we arrived there, we had a hard time finding the house. No signs announce its presence in this unexceptional little beach town filled with cheap restaurants and souvenir shops.
On the advice of a local taxi driver, we made our way down a dirt road a half-mile or so outside of town. Then there it was, on a pile of rocks overlooking a stretch of ocean so wild Jim had to raise his voice for me to hear. Neruda’s favorite house: Isla Negra.
This was the house he had purchased for his wife, Delia del Carril (nicknamed La Hormiguita, the Little Ant). He was looking, he said, for a place to write his “Canto General.” But, it could be argued, a person doesn’t need a roomful of ships in bottles and a few hundred glass bottles to write a canto.
“I write for a land recently dried, recently fresh with flowers, pollen, mortar,” he wrote in “Canto General.” “I write for some craters whose chalk cupolas repeat the round void beside the pure snow. …”
Here again are the bar and the great dining table, the vast fireplace and deep soft chairs (overlooking the roiling Pacific this time), the writing room, the romantic bedroom reached by a special flight of steps — two bedrooms actually; when Pablo Neruda divorced Delia and married Matilde, the new love required a new room. At Isla Negra, the landlubber Neruda indulged his love of maritime objects more than in either of the other houses, with a dozen female ships’ figureheads jutting from the walls of the living room.
Neruda celebrated the Chilean Independence Day here with his many friends every Sept. 18. It was here where he received the news of the coup that removed his socialist ally Salvador Allende from power in September 1973, and of Allende’s suicide that same day.
And it was here — just three weeks later — where he spent his last night with Matilde, before being taken to the hospital where he died a few days later. The cause of death was reported as prostate cancer, but the Interior Ministry of Chile recently released a statement saying that it was highly probable that Neruda’s death “was caused by a third-party intervention.”
After his death, Matilde never spent another night at Isla Negra; she returned instead to Santiago to end her days at La Chascona. First, though, she had to rebuild the house, that — like the town — was looted and wrecked by members of the military following the coup.
聂鲁达死后，玛蒂尔德没有在Isla Negra住过一个晚上；她回到圣地亚哥，在La Chascona度过了余生。不过首先，她必须进行重建，就像这座城镇一样，房子在政变之后遭到了军方成员的洗劫和破坏。
A person visiting the houses now would not guess that so many of Neruda’s carefully assembled treasures and furnishings had been smashed and burned in those first days. Photographs displayed on the home’s walls from the aftermath tell the story — of the destruction, of the thousands who took to the streets after his death to mourn their beloved poet. There in the photographs, among the mourning masses, is Matilde herself — hair concealed under a black veil. She died of cancer 10 years later and is buried at Isla Negra beside her husband.
On the plane home, I took out the volumes of poetry I had picked up at the gift shop at La Chascona. One was a collection featuring the “Twenty Poems of Love” I knew so well, and the verses Neruda published, anonymously, in celebration of his love for Matilde during the early ’50s when their relationship was a secret.
The other was a hefty 843-page tome with every one of Neruda’s odes, in Spanish on one side of the page, English on the other (“Ode to an Artichoke.” “Ode to the Dictionary.” “Ode to Walt Whitman.” “Ode to My Suit”: “Every morning, suit, you are waiting on a chair to be filled by my vanity, my love, my hope, my body.”) It’s fitting, for this poet who so loved material objects, less for their value, I think, than for what they represented, that he wrote 225 of these odes.
另一本是有843页的厚书，内容包括聂鲁达的每一首颂歌，书页的一侧是西班牙文，另一侧是英文（《洋蓟颂》[Ode to the Artichoke]、《字典颂》[Ode to the Dictionary]、《致沃尔特·惠特曼》[Ode to Walt Whitman]、《西服颂》[Ode to My Suit]：“每天早晨，西服，你在椅子上等待被我的虚荣、爱、希望、身体填满。”他写这225首颂歌再合适不过，因为他如此喜爱各种物件，不是因为它们的价值，而是因为它们的象征意义）。
I’m no poet, and no poetry critic, but I found myself thinking, as I flew north over South America with my backpack full of Neruda, that not all of these poems are so great or memorable. The poet may have been served better writing a little less. Just as it may be said that his wonderful houses could contain one tenth the number of amazing treasures, and they’d still be wonderful places to behold. More so, maybe.
But who am I to criticize a great poet for the excess, as I make my way back to a house filled with ample evidence of my own obsessive collecting? I know as well as the next person that it’s dust to dust in the end. All a person takes with him to the grave are his bones.
But in the middle, between birth and death, I’d call it a glorious thing, to raise one’s red Mexican glass at a fine round table set with gilt-edged china, while candles flicker and the music box plays, and the host sports a fez, and his beautiful redheaded wife whispers words of love in his ear. There’s a string of rare pearls around her neck, and a ship’s figurehead of a woman with her breasts spilling from her bodice, over the assembled guests, while outside, fireworks explode over a roaring sea.
IF YOU GO
Admission for each of Pablo Neruda’s three houses is 5,000 pesos, about $7.30 (student and senior discounts are available). They all offer audio guides in English, and each is closed on Monday.
La Chascona (Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Barrio Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago, 56-2-2777-8741; fundacionneruda.org) takes its name, “Wild Hair,” from the nickname of Neruda’s then-secret lover, Matilde Urrutia. It sits on a side street on a high hill in Santiago, at the foot of Cerro San Cristóbal, overlooking the city. Ransacked after the coup that removed Salvador Allende from power, the house has now been fully restored.
La Chascona (Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192，Barrio Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago, 56-2-2777-8741; fundacionneruda.org)的名称“疯狂的头发”，描述的是聂鲁达当时的秘密情人玛蒂尔德·乌鲁希亚。它位于圣地亚哥的一座高山上，在圣克里斯托瓦尔山的脚下，俯视着这座城市。在政变推翻了萨尔瓦多·阿连德之后遭到洗劫，现在已经被修复。
La Sebastiana (Ferrari 692, Valparaíso, 56-32-225-6606; fundacionneruda.org) sits high on a hill, overlooking the bay and the city of Valparaíso. Neruda invited his friends here every September to watch the fireworks marking the celebration of Chile’s independence.
La Sebastiana (Ferrari 692, Valparaiso, 56-32-225-6606; fundacionneruda.org)位于一座山上，俯瞰海湾和瓦尔帕莱索市。聂鲁达每年9月邀请朋友来看焰火，纪念智利的独立日。
Isla Negra (Poeta Neruda s/n, Isla Negra, El Quisco, 56-35-2461284; fundacionneruda.org), on the rocky coastline just over an hour south of Valparaíso, is where Neruda and Matilde chose to be buried — though after his death, she could not bring herself to return. The drive to Isla Negra, from Valparaíso, allows for visits to a number of fine Chilean vineyards. Well worth the stop, for those who have time.
Isla Negra (Poeta Neruda s/n, Isla Negra, El Quisco, 56-35-2461284; fundacionneruda.org)位于岩石遍布的海岸线上，在瓦尔帕莱索以南，相距一个多小时的路程。聂鲁达和玛蒂尔德选择葬在这里，不过他死后，她没能说服自己回到这里。开车从瓦尔帕莱索前往Isla Negra的路上可以参观一些智利的酿酒厂。有时间的话可以看看。