Dear Emily Post-Avant,
I just read a post on the Paris Review Daily about Pablo Neruda, by someone named Mark Eisner. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/page/3/ In this fawning, nigh-slobbering, hagiographic mini-essay, Mr. Eisner writes about Don Pablo’s role in the “Winnipeg” ship rescue mission, which collected Spanish Civil-War refugees in France, as Nazi troops quickly advanced toward the country, in 1939. Your Dispatches hosts, one year ago, turned a pointed eye on that matter, at the poet and photographer Linh Dinh’s site: http://linhdinhphotos.blogspot.com/2017/02/kent-johnson-on-pablo-neruda.html
What I wanted to ask you is this. If Neruda, as has been variously reported, had a carefully prepared list of “undesirables,” to whom he was determined to refuse safe passage on the ship (i.e., no Spanish CNT anarchists or anti-Stalinist leftists, such as George Orwell’s POUM comrades)–something that would be perfectly expected, given that Don Pablo was a proven NKVD agent–in what way is this qualitatively different, really, from Donald Trump’s selective immigration policy of the day, which allows “safe passage” to only certain privileged immigrants of, or within, this or that religion or race? Was Neruda, in fact, in his killing exclusions (I say “killing” because scores of those denied passage ended up tortured and dead at hands of the Nazis), a Stalinist-trope Trumpista avant la lettre?
Seriously. What a pathetically uninformed rag this Paris Review is, in this instance, at least.
Can we please stop with the Neruda ass-licking worship once and for all, U.S. liberal poets and journals?
–Fed Up with This Liberal Neruda Porn Bullshit
Dear Fed Up with This Liberal Neruda Porn Bullshit,
Yes, U.S. liberals love their Poetic Stalinism. Neruda is hardly the only non-Soviet Stalinist poet of the 20th century, though he is the most reprehensible of the lot (Louis Aragon is a close second). Of course, 98% of U.S. poetic liberals (Drone-Man Obama buffs) have not a clue about the history of the international Left in the 30s through the 60s, or later. They think Don Pablo was a pleasantly overweight, genial, gastronomic lefty saint, who just happened to have tons of cash on hand to buy three mansions in Chile and amass one of the leading curio collections of the planet. How nice!
The man, as you say, was an officially licensed NKVD agent, who played a key role in the first attempted assassination of Trotsky in Mexico (and likely in the second, successful one), who toed the Comintern line all through its byzantine, counterrevolutionary twists and turns (not least its Stalin-Hitler Pact and the obscene betrayal of the Spanish Republic), who wrote an epic “Ode to Stalin” (of gagging magnitude), who sneered at the poetry of the impoverished César Vallejo (his poetic better), who knew perfectly well about the Moscow Show Trials and the murder of a whole generation of revolutionaries and never said a word against it, who raped an untouchable-caste Tamil woman while a Chilean Consul in then-Ceylon and macho-bragged about it in his revoltingly self-aggrandizing memoirs https://www.dispatchespoetrywars.com/commentary/2017/02/big-neruda-problem-dispatch-1/ (though the Paris Review article stunningly mentions this self-confessed rape in blithe passing as a sort of unfortunate peccadillo), and who was handsomely paid in mass-murder blood money for all of this perfectly bourgeois decades-long pleasure cruise, while being allowed to pass as a “revolutionary.”
As you say, comfy U.S. liberals love a Stalinist poet.
My sympathies, but where do you live, you know?