Sunday, October 7, 2007

Burma and Neruda

The events in Burma (the Generals now want us to call it Myanmar, so I call it Burma) this past week reminded me of Pablo Neruda and his lonely stay there in the late 1920s. Appointed an Honorary Consul to Burma by the government of Chile, Neruda found himself in direct conflict with the British ruling establishment there, and found himself embroiled in a passionate affair with a Burmese panther who called herself "Josie Bliss." Only later did Neruda tell us who exactly he was addressing as "Oh Maligna" in his poem "Tango del Viudo" (Widower's Tango), published at the beginning of Part III of his Residencia en la Tierra, and relate the strange story of his involvement with her.

I have often wondered that no one has tried to make a film of this story - of the insensate jealousy of Josie Bliss, of how Neruda would be awakened by a movement and see her pacing around his mosquito netted bed with a glinting knife, torn between her love and her jealousy which wanted to kill him rather than endure it any more. Then Neruda received his orders of transfer to Ceylon, and he withheld the news from Josie Bliss, and, when the day of his departure arrived, dressed as he always did to go off to work and instead boarded the ship that would carry him away from her - leaving behind everything he had collected during his stay: every book and photograph, only so she wouldn't suspect.

On the ship the first lines of "Widower's Tango" came to him:

"Oh evil one, you must by now have found the letter, you must
have wept with fury,
and you must have insulted my mother's memory,
calling her rotten bitch and mother of dogs,
you must have drunk, all by yourself, your twilight tea,
looking at my old shoes forever empty,...

4 comments:

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Anonymous said...

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Dan Harper said...

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