No it wasn’t the love poems of the famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda that helped me kinda fall back in love with stuff. It was his homes. If you ever find yourself in Chile, visit Neruda’s homes. He has three and Nellu and I have seen two of them. (Pablo Neruda, for those reading who do not know him, was one of the most influential poets of the twentieth centuries. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.)
I know I am a self-declared stuff-hater (seriously I am still trying to figure out how to dump more stuff so I don’t have to lug it around) but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and visiting all the items that Neruda, an avid collector, had amassed over his very full life.
For a second I thought, I too could be a collector, and then Nellu reminded me of the emotional distress I experienced moving out of our small one-bedroom apartment. Whatever, a girl can dream.
Neruda himself had a similar internal contraction. He had a fascination with the sea but didn’t actually like the ocean. That didn’t stop him from accumulating ship’s mastheads, boat lighting fixtures, seashells and other nautical items. In fact his house in Santiago, La Chascona, was fashioned partly after a boat (his dining room) and a lighthouse (his living room) and La Sebastiana, his Valparaiso home, had panoramic views of the harbor and Pacific Ocean. (We couldn’t take pictures inside the homes but you can take a virtual tour of La Chascona here.)
But even beyond the nautical theme, Neruda collected everything from colored glass containers to one-off comical items. These include the fake whiskey bottle that reveals cigarette holders inside and the giant shoe in his library, which he used to entertain his scores of friends. And his houses were filled to the brink with his collections (very tastefully not like a hoarder). It seems like he gathered collections in a similar way he gathered friends.
In doing research for this blog post, I came across the biography Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life in which author Adam Feinstein writes, “It was that joy of being alive which made him such a life-enhancing poet, and it was his generosity in wanting to ‘share’ this joy which gained him so many loyal friends…” You got that sense from touring his homes.
Also interestingly, it turns out that Neruda was a real womanizer, even having an affair with his third wife’s niece toward the end of his life. But that makes perfect sense – it had to take a real charmer for me to fall back in love with stuff.