He grew up in Temuco, Chile, where he knew future Nobel Prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral, and started writing as a young boy. He wrote his poetry while serving as a diplomat and in the Chilean Senate. While best known for his love poems, Neruda’s Communist viewpoints are reflected in works such as Canto General.
His popularity has made him the subject of two novels. In Antonio Skarmeta’s Il Postino, he inspires an Italian postal carrier to write poetry to woo a young lady. The book was made into the 1994 Academy Award-nominated movie. (The DVD includes a 30-minute feature about his life, with celebrities such as Madonna and Samuel L. Jackson reading his works.) In Roberto Ampuero’s excellent The Neruda Case, Neruda is shown in the last days of his life – reflecting on his past loves as he is dying of cancer and the Chilean government is about to be overthrown.