This summer I am studying abroad in Chile, improving my Spanish and studying poetry in Pablo Neruda’s hometown. In fact, my host family in Chile live a mere ten minutes from Neruda’s house in Valparaíso. Additionally, I visited Neruda’s two other homes in Chile. Each house was beautiful and inspirational in its own way, and I came home to the states with lots more books, both in English in Spanish. Here’s a little about each house, with a book recommendation to go along.
La Sebastiana (Valparaíso, Chile)
La Sebastiana, named after its original owner Sebastian Collao, was Neruda’s recluse from the bustle of Santiago. A towering five stories, the home is eclectically decorated with everything from pink striped wallpaper to an enormous portrait of Walt Whitman. It’s all held together by a winding staircase. The house is in town, but is shrouded by greenery so it seems to stand on its own, which is why I chose The Graces by Laure Eve for this house. Chock full of mystery and magical realism, The Graces chronicles teenage River’s obsession with the mysterious Grace family and their home.
La Chascona (Santiago, Chile)
In the living room of La Chascona, there is a portrait of the house’s namesake, Matilde Urrutia, Neruda’s mistress. The portrait, painted by Diego Rivera, shows Matilde with two faces, but, if you look closely at the portrait, Neruda’s silhouette is clear in the curls of Urrutia’s hair. La Chascona is my favorite house, both in design and location. It is located in the heart of Santiago and filled with gardens of climbing vines and trees that you have to walk through to get from one room to another. For this house, I chose Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Brimming with forbidden romance and lush descriptions, Everything, Everything encapsulates both the romance of the house and dreamy luxury of the garden.
Isla Negra (Quisco, Chile)
The novel I chose for Pablo Neruda’s oceanside home in Quisco, Chile was We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Neruda’s third house has countless maritime trinkets- from a narwhal horn to delicate ships in bottles. At times, I felt as if I was wandering through a whimsical nautical museum. Most notably was the gorgeous seaside vista, visible throughout the house. I chose We Were Liars for the dreamy, seaside atmosphere it evokes. The novel also has a pervasive sense of something being wrong, like something terrifying is being forgotten, which felt fitting, considering Neruda himself was both afraid of and loved the ocean, calling himself a “sailor on land.”