Canto General

Pablo Neruda


The Strongest Texts – 1

I take advantage of the summer period to explore unknown areas of live performances. Here I am in: the texts to be staged, because they are strong, because they are grandiose, because they call to them music and lights, because they can be shared – everyone in a room to vibrate with these words.

I hesitated where to start – and then, for the beauty and the epic, for the power of human intelligence, yes, this first text I would like to see on stage would be excerpts from the Canto General by Neruda.

I haven’t read it in its original version – I’ve lost “the purity of language” – but even in French this text is beyond anything. It follows the history of the continent of Latin America, the history of its rocks, its waterfalls and its streams. The history of the men who have trodden its grasses and created its paths.
The story of the men who massacred each other and stained the primitive earth red with blood.

Pablo Neruda

But since it is Neruda who writes – and he is an immense poet – and therefore a man in all his lucidity as a man – there is no “judgment”. There are peoples who clash, fear, do not understand each other, disappoint each other – but there are also men who discover, love, notice and reach out to each other. There are countries, their general inhumanities, international companies with no faith, no law and no soul other than that of their madness, and men, sometimes artists – and Neruda brings them into his poem – sometimes formidable, sometimes shabby.

That’s the text. It’s… grand.
It’s lyrical.
It’s epic. Look just as this excerpt :

“Like dazzling pheasants

the priests ascended

the Aztec steps.

Triangular stones

sustained the infinite

lightning of their vestments.

And the august pyramid,

stone upon stone, agony upon air,

within its domineering structure,

tended like an almond

a sacrificed heart.

In a thundering cry

blood ran down

the sacred stairway.

But thronging multitudes

wove fiber, nurtured

the promise of the crops,

plaited feathered splendor,

coaxed the turquoise,

and in textile vines

expressed the world’s light.”

Pablo Neruda – Canto General The translation is by Jack Schmitt.

South America & Valparaiso, city loved by Neruda :

So how could I not dream of seeing it on stage?
How not to “dress” it in music?
How not to offer it to graphic artists to highlight it?
How not to offer it to actors to lend it their voices?

If I, who am not an artist, manage to see, on stage, this greatness of the text carried by the music, the voices and the lights – then there will be artists to create it.
And I – I’ll watch and I’ll be happy to share it with the other spectators.

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