Chestertown, MD, March 7, 2005 — Washington College's Sophie Kerr Committee and Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures present “Lost in Translation: Neruda and Borges,” a lecture by poet and essayist Alistair Reid, Wednesday, March 16, at 4:30 p.m. in the Sophie Kerr Room, Miller Library. The talk is free and open to the public.
Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda are two of the most significant voices in 20th century Spanish American letters. Born in Buenos Aires in 1899, Borges was blind through most of his adult life, yet achieved worldwide fame for his poetry, short stories and essays. His works in all genres are noted for their concision and intellectualism, and many of his most popular stories concern the nature of time, infinity, identity and literature itself. Such images as the mirror, the double, the library and the labyrinth are used to explore the nature of the universe and humanity's place in it.
Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet (1971), was born Neftalí Recardo Reyes Basoalto in 1904 in the town of Parral. He adopted his pen name, Pablo Neruda in memory of the 19th century Czech poet, Jan Neruda. He served in several diplomatic posts during his youth and, near the end of his life, was Chile's Ambassador to France during the presidency of Salvador Allende. Neruda died in September 1973, shortly after the coup d'etat that overthrew Allende. Neruda's poetry celebrates life, love, the sea and nature in all its manifestations. While Borges was often viewed as living and writing in the proverbial “ivory tower,” Neruda deeply believed that poetry could and should be used as a weapon in the struggle for human dignity and justice. Perhaps that view is most dramatically expressed in the epic sweep of his work The Heights of Macchu Picchu.
Alistair Reid—poet, essayist, translator and author of children's books—came to the United States from his native Scotland in the 1950s following service in the Royal Navy and graduation from St. Andrews University. A staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1959, he has also been a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, for which he has written a number of essays related to Latin American literature. A personal friend of both Neruda and Borges, he is also the author of highly acclaimed translations of their major works. Along with Gregory Rabassa, he was awarded the PEN Kolovakos Award for Translation in 2001.