Pablo Neruda of Chile, 1904-1973, won the Nobel Prize in 1971. Jorge Edwards, a Chilean writer, discusses Neruda's vast literary output. Edwards, who knew Neruda, describes how his work evolved from early romantic poetry to, after the Spanish Civil War, radical and political. Edwards has great insight into Neruda and the nuances and textures of his poetry ranging from Spain in My Heart to The Heights of Macchu Picchu. His influence was felt throughout Latin America. Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez called Neruda "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Interview by David Barsamian.
Enron is the Houston-based energy corporation that has had the biggest meltdown in U.S. history. Its takeover of part of India's energy sector created a scandal. Allegations of improprieties abound. India, with its burgeoning population of 1 billion, is an epicenter of opposition to U.S.-led globalization. When it comes to international commerce the U.S. plays hardball. One of its trade officials threatened to break open India's markets with a crowbar if it did not accede to American demands. Indians have been through this before with the East India Company and British colonization. The sahibs, with their laptops, cell phones and power plays, are back. In India and elsewhere, the question arises about what role writers should play in society. Are they merely disengaged artists? Some, like Thoreau, Orwell, Camus and Neruda felt the need to be politically active. Arundhati Roy is in that tradition. She gave the Eqbal Ahmad lecture at Hampshire College.
Kurt Vonnegut was a cultural icon. His observations on the destructiveness and dehumanization of the 20th century, distilled by his rich imagination and quirky view of events and their time frames, make for delightful reading and listening experiences. His irreverence is palpable, as is his disdain for Bush administration. Asked by a journalist for an idea for a really scary reality TV show, Vonnegut responded, "C Students From Yale. It would stand your hair on end." In his book "Hocus Pocus," published in 1990, he wrote, "Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe." Interview by David Barsamian
Arundhati Roy is a world-renowned writer and global justice activist. The New York Times calls her, “India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence.” Among her many honors are the Lannan Foundation’s Cultural Freedom Award and the Sydney Peace Prize. She is the author of many books including The God of Small Things, The Checkbook & the Cruise Missile, Field Notes on Democracy, Walking with the Comrades, Capitalism A Ghost Story and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.
Jorge Edwards is a Chilean novelist and journalist. During the presidency of Salvador Allende, Edwards reopened the Chilean embassy in Cuba. But only three months later, the government of Fidel Castro declared him persona non grata. From this episode he wrote, perhaps, his most famous work, Persona non grata. In 1994, Edwards was appointed as Chile’s ambassador to UNESCO. In 2008 his novel La Casa de Dostoievsky won the prestigious Premio Iberoamericano Planeta-Casa de America Prize.
Kurt Vonnegut ranks among America’s most widely read and best-loved authors. He was born in Indiana in 1922. He was an infantryman in World War Two and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. He was then taken to a POW camp in Dresden in time to experience the Allied firebombing of that city. The destruction wrought was greater than that of Nagasaki. He was a self-described “fourth-generation German-American living in easy circumstances.” He wrote over 20 books including such classics as Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. He died in New York on April 11, 2007.”So it goes.”