Being an aspiring author myself, there’s something about seeing the homes where these mystical beings live and work that gets my creative juices flowing. “That’s their desk!” “Their favorite pen!” I find myself lionizing each item, hopeful to absorb their literary genius by osmosis.
Thus on my recent visit to Valparaiso, Chile, I knew that I must make visiting the home of Chile’s most famous poet, Pablo Neruda, a high priority–no matter that I had never actually read anything by the man. A few Google searches later, and I found that Pablo Neruda is the pen name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, a renowned poet, diplomat and politician. Although his writing was controversial because of his ties to the Chilean Communist Party back in the 1940s, he became the most famous for his erotic love poems. I, however, was most impressed by the fact that Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971–that and the Pulitzer being every author’s dream.
Straight up Valparaiso’s steep hills I trudged past colorful murals and ramshackle houses, a pilgrimage of sorts to see the place where he penned his tomes. A towering home built with sweeping views of the scintillating Pacific below, La Sebastiana is a wonderland of curiosities. Neruda was a character of epic proportions, and one of his oddities included collecting unusual trinkets from around the world. He once proclaimed that the best way to establish a collection is to tell all of your friends what you are collecting, so they can always bring you a gift. It worked for him! A carousel horse from Paris, a flamingo encased in a plastic orb, antique seltzer bottles. Every nook and cranny boasts a feast for curious eyes to devour.
Although his desk was small and disappointing to me, the tour explained that he did much of his thinking in his very own bar–considered to him the most important room in each of his three houses. Painted a shocking pink and yellow, Neruda retreated to this colorful waterhole to entertain and ponder. Wish I could have sat back with the old fellow, discussing the ins and outs of the writing life, and ask him what it felt like to finally win that Pulitzer.