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Five Decades (Neruda, Pablo) Paperback – 12 Jan 1994

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Product details

  • Paperback: 431 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press; Later Printing edition (12 Jan 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130358
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 438,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neruda is one of the world's greatest poets and a seminal figure in every poetry movement of the Twentieth century, he also served as a diplomat for Chile and travelled extensively. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and died in 1973.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Innecesario, viendome en los espejos, con un gusto a semanas, a biografos, a papeles, arranco de mi corazon al capitan del infierno, establezco clausulas indefinidamente tristes. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Jan 1999
Format: Paperback
Compared to the two other books that were translated from the same text, "10 Love Poems", and "20 Love Poems", this was extremely poor. It was difficult to imagine the same poem was translated into such different text. Note: I do not speak Spanish. And, the other two books are excellent.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 28 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Changes in language forgiveable, but not changes in tone 8 May 2001
By JeFF Stumpo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Translating poetry is different, for the most part, than translating a novel or movie script. The translator often tries to match the rhythm and sound of the original work while writing in the second language. In this instance, Ben Belitt chooses to forgo keeping Neruda's rhythem and sounds and inserts his own word choices. Sometimes this strays very far from a "literal" translation of Neruda's words, but after all, this is poetry. Some metaphors and play-on-words simply cannot be translated. Therefore, a translator should be allowed a little freedom with word choice.
What is unforgiveable, however, is to completely change the tone of the poet's voice when translating his or her work. A perfect example lies in the poem "Caballos," or "Horses" on pages 180-183. Throughout the poem, Neruda expresses his wonder at ten beautiful horses, describing them as "godlike" and "elegant." Belitt does a decent job of relating these feelings until the 25th line. Neruda writes "cortadas en la piedra de su orgullo," which Belitt translates as "carved in the stone of their arrogance." If I were to tell you that the word "orgullo" can be translated as "pride" or "arrogance," which would you choose for a poem that genuinely praises something? To throw a word with negative connotations in with such carelessness is evident of how Belitt pays little attention to the feeling and emotion behind Neruda's poems. This example is not meant to be nit-picking. Rather, it is just one of many oversights that subtly changes the meanings of the poetry.
Mistakes like these do cause English-only speakers to be turned off to Neruda's poetry. Please look to another translation, in particular one that has been rated highly BY THE READERS. The praise for this book, if you read the back cover, is actually for Pablo Neruda's poetry. No one will deny that Neruda was a master, it is the translator that is lacking.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Can we give negative ratings? 29 July 2000
By "foxgraham" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a student in the master's program at ASU, I purchased this and a few other Neruda texts for academic reasons but was horribly disappointed by this abomination. Ben Belitt appears to be a poor poet who wants to make himself great by editing the work of master poet Neruda. His translations are sloppy, his wording is confusing, and he seems to write just to hear himself talk. Does he speak either English or Spanish? His style would indicate that he simply searched through a thesaurus for the longest synonym he could find. Did he get paid by the word, or is this some cruel joke to intentionally butcher great works? Neruda's work is straightforward and rich, and from that comes the magic of his voice. Belitt steals the sound, tone, and quality of Neruda and replaces it with his own convoluted and idiotic style. Somehow, Belitt managed to ruin Neruda's brilliant anaphoras, surely the easiest part of a poem to translate. Even a foreigner to Spanish can feel Neruda's rhythm in his text. Was Belitt trying to ruin it? I find the only way to read this text is to ignore the English side entirely and rely on Neruda's Spanish text alone and hope I can pick up enough of the Latinate words to fully understand Neruda's genius. I want my money back.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
¡Qué verguenza! 22 Oct 2003
By Eric J. Lyman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I just sat down for a quiet night of reading some wonderful Pablo Neruda poems while sipping from a soothing cup of warm tea, and I was rudely shocked at the ham-handed translations I found on the pages of this book!
I am not particularly a fan of poetry, but Mr. Neruda's transcendent and passionate work has always held a special place in my heart. I discovered Mr. Neruda's poems in the original Spanish some time ago, but I bought this edition more recently because I feared that the last few years in Italy had eroded by Spanish skills to the point that I'd benefit from having my native English to refer to for help. Instead, the translations left me appalled.
Anyone reading Mr. Neruda's poems for the first time with this book could only assume that this great poet was a mediocre talent trying to impress beyond his abilities. The rhythm is gone, the intelligence is altered, and the word choice sometimes sounds as if it was produced by one of those annoying Internet translation programs. At points, I was seriously left wondering if Mr. Belitt is even a native English speaker.
It's a terrible shame, too, because it's so nice to have both languages in the same edition. And while I am strongly critical of Mr. Belitt's translations, I cannot at all fault his selection of poems: all of the Neruda poems I like best are here, whether they are well known or obscure.
As I am about to file this review, I see that all but a couple of my fellow reviewers came to the same conclusion I did. Take our advice, please! Seek out another, better translation of Mr. Neruda's work. I'm not sure which to suggest, but rest assured that you could hardly find an inferior one.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Seems to me... 24 May 2000
By Pammy Loomis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
...that Mr. Neruda must be rolling in his grave, and not just at these ungainly translations of Mr. Bellitt's, but at the fact that his worst nightmares about the fundamental pettiness of the human spirit are borne out when folks below like the reader from New York turn a democratic, public forum into a platform for their own personal vendettas. Worse still, when they are too cowardly to identify themselves. Grow up, anonymous reader from New York. It heartens me to think that in the end, Neruda would end up chuckling at us all here; but at least some of us TRY.
For much better english Neruda translations, try William O'Daly's (Copper Canyon Press).
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Poor translation 6 Aug 2001
By Michael D'Alto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As someone trying to read Neruda for the second time, I was surprised that I could recognize that the translation was poor. I had only read five of his other poems, and somehow after reading three poems from this volume I knew something was amiss. The translations were more confusing than the Spanish, and my spanish is poor. In many instances the translator chose words that were unnecessarily complex to convey something that could be expressed more simply and clearly in English and still remain true to the author's original words. The only reason I logged onto Amazon.com was to see if the reviews also cited poor translation as a problem with the volume, so I would know I was not just a poor reader.
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