venture of the infinite man was Neruda's third book, published in 1926, two years after his widely celebrated Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. In a stark stylistic departure from the love poems, Neruda composed an epic poem in 15 cantos, discarding rhyme, meter, punctuation and capitalization in what he described as an attempt to better capture the voice of the subconsious. His readers were not prepared for this experiment, and decades after its publication, Neruda lamented that "one of the most important books of my poetry" remained woefully neglected and virtually unknown.
Neruda considered venture essential to his evolution: "Within its smallness and minimal expression, more than most of my works, it claimed, it secured, the path that I had to follow." Its long-overdue translation into English is cause for celebration!
"Experimental, obscure, timeless, essential, venture of the infinite man, published two years after his famous Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, set Pablo Neruda on his course toward becoming the greatest poet in the history of the Spanish language. Its publication in English is a historic event, above all today, above all in this moment, above all, now."--Raúl Zurita, author of Anteparaíso
"In his early twenties and after the enormous success of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda surprised everyone by changing aesthetic gears in this book that was at once innovative and emblematic. The effort was part of what would ultimately become his ceaseless embrace of change as the sine qua non of style. Jessica Powell does wonders rendering these cantos for the first time into English, filling in a gap his legion of admirers will be thankful for. This isn't only an unseen Neruda but an unforeseen one too."--Ilan Stavans, editor of The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
"What an act of generosity this book is. Eisner's introduction contextualizes and informs precisely as needed, and Jessica Powell's translation achieves astonishing beauty and refreshing truth. She has listened deeply to Neruda's text."--Katherine Silver, translator
"Jessica Powell is the 'distant light that illuminates the fruit' of venture of the infinite man, the twenty-two year old Pablo Neruda's untranslated third book. One part quest and one part inner map, in Powell's hands the delicious and strange language of the original dances effortlessly in English. Readers can now experience the moment Neruda evolved from being only a brilliant singer of love poems into a maker of rich, stunning worlds. This book is a treasure."--Tomás Q. Morín, author of Patient Zero
"This book has the fascination of being Neruda becoming Neruda. It's the brilliant young poet who made himself famous at nineteen and twenty with Twenty Love Poems, beginning to absorb the lessons of the new surrealism and making his way to the world poet he would become in Residence on Earth. So it is a leap into the imagination of one of the crucial poets of the twentieth century as he is feeling his way."--Robert Hass, former U.S. Poet Laureate
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About the Author
Pablo Neruda is regarded as the greatest Latin American poet of the 20th century. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, his breadth of vision and wide range of themes are extraordinary, and his work continues to inspire new generations of writers.
Jessica Powell has translated numerous Latin American authors, including works by César Vallejo, Jorge Luis Borges, Ernesto Cardenal, Maria Moreno, Ana Lidia Vega Serova and Edmundo Paz Soldán. Her translation (with Suzanne Jill Levine) of Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo's novel Where There's Love, There's Hate, was published by Melville House in 2013. She was the recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship in support of her translation of Antonio Benítez Rojo's novel Woman in Battle Dress (City Lights, 2015), which was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Translation. Her translation of Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya was named a finalist for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award.
Mark Eisner conceived, edited, and was one of the principal translators for The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (City Lights, 2004). For Neruda's centennial that year, Eisner was interviewed by Renee Montaigne on NPR's Morning Edition. Eisner has also written what the bestselling novelist Cristina García called a "definitive" biography on Neruda, Neruda: The Poet's Calling, one that "reads like a beautifully written novel," forthcoming from a major publisher in March 2018. Finally, he is currently producing a documentary on Neruda, to be completed in 2018, with support from Latino Public Broadcasting. An initial, short version of the documentary, narrated by Isabel Allende, won the Latin American Studies Association Award of Merit. Other work includes his critically acclaimed translation of the Spanish poet and scholar Tina Escaja's award-winning book-length poem Free Fall / Caída Libre (Fomite Press, 2015.) He was also involved with the founding of the literary non-profit Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco. He and Escaja also co-edited a forthcoming multilingual anthology of Latin American Poetry in Resistance, a project of Red Poppy, dedicated to promoting the power of Latin American poetry to evoke social consciousness.
"[venture] is arresting for the images it conjures up. ... a collection full of drive and rhythmic energy. ... Here, in deft versions by Jessica Powell, a new addition to the roster of translators of Neruda into English, the poems appear with the English first and then the Spanish at the back, with identical pagination. As the [venture] is a breathless rush, this makes sense, not interrupting the surge of Neruda's poetic journey into the night."--Times Literary Supplement
"This book should not have been kept out of the light ... Catch up then, Poetry Lover, in your reading by checking out this book which was so important to Neruda himself. City Lights' edition is wonderfully designed and also provides the service of offering the poem in its original Spanish."--Eileen Tabios
"Powell's translation is monumental, as much for its fearlessness as for its grace and beauty. For nearly a century, translators avoided the work, as Neruda's determination to break through poetic and grammatical forms to achieve a higher consciousness produced an aesthetic that was bewildering even to native Spanish speakers. ... The translator approaches this work with an absolute willingness to give herself over to its strangeness, and a determination to allow Neruda's emerging voice to speak for itself."--Reading in Translation
"This new City Lights edition also includes the text in Spanish as well. Neruda exclaims: 'if you call to me storm you thunder as distant as a train.' Despite how opaque the text can seem, Neruda's lyrical language and vivid imagery make this book a keeper."--Cultural Weekly
"venture of the infinite man obviously played a significant role in [Pablo Neruda's] accomplishments. The book also beckons other poets do what Neruda did: indulge in fearless experimentation at some stage of your poetic journey. Sooner the better."--Pacific Rim Review of Books