“It so happens I am sick of being a man,” Pablo Neruda wrote in his 1933 poem “Walking Around.” The Chilean poet went on to describe a melancholy jaunt through the streets of Santiago:
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.
The weary Neruda returned to walk those same streets again last Saturday, on the eve of what would have been his 110th birthday, in projected form produced by the motion graphics company Delight Lab. According to the Latin Post, he was first seen emerging from La Chascona, the mountainside home he built in Bellavista and lived in with his lover Matilde Urrutia. The poet strolled along,
serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.
Neruda continued westward. He passed restaurants, shop windows and the National Library until he finally reached the University of Chile, to which he donated his manuscripts and personal library when he turned 50. He then turned around and walked back home, reaching his front door four hours after he left it.
Though Neruda died more than 41 years ago, he has lived on in the public imagination. Last year, his remains were exhumed by forensic scientists looking into his former driver’s claim that Neruda was poisoned by agents of General Augusto Pinochet (they concluded he wasn’t). In June, researchers discovered over 20 unpublished poems of “extraordinary quality” tucked away in old boxes. They will be published in Latin America by Seix Barral in late 2014.
Here’s a brief video of Delight Lab’s Neruda projection in Santiago: