The Chilean poet and writer Pablo Neruda, who campaigned primarily against fascism in his homeland and in Spain, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and is considered one of the most important poets in world literature.
His Canto General (Der große Gesang) is an extensive cycle of poems about Latin America’s struggle against colonialism. The cycle consists of 231 poems, and claims to be a history or encyclopedia of the entire Hispano-American subcontinent. “The Great Song” describes the creation of Latin America, its flora and fauna, the appearance of man, the conquest by the conquistadors, the subsequent liberation struggles, and the hopes for independence. In many Latin American countries, the veneration of this work is surpassed only by the veneration of the Bible. In Europe, especially in Germany, the importance of this work is hardly known, especially in the context of the discourse on post-colonialism.
The Bezirkszentralbibliothek in Berlin-Friedrichshain, which was newly opened on November 11, 2010, was named Pablo Neruda in his honor. It is located somewhat set back on a small square on Frankfurter Allee next to the old building of the Georg-Friedrich-Händel-Gymnasium. Until 2005, the four-story building housed a school built as a prefabricated slab. The library attracts attention as an impressive solitaire with its curtain-slatted cedar façade and has been honored with national and international architecture and design awards. When the interior is illuminated at night, the seemingly heavy monolith appears light and fragile and invites you to linger. We want to give the “Great Song” a stage in the library garden, which was created in 2014, and reﬂect it musically. Three international musicians/composers based in Berlin will be commissioned to interpret three poems each from the extensive cycle of poems. These compositions will then be premiered there on November 6th.
The performance of the compositions is to be accompanied by an introduction to Neruda’s life and work, which will also consider critical aspects in his biography, about which Isabel Allende said:
“Very few people, especially powerful or einﬂussive men behave admirably. Unfortunately, Neruda was also a flawed human being, as we all are in one way or another, but ‘Canto General’ is still a masterpiece.”
The goal of the project is to introduce the work Canto General, which is largely unknown in Germany: the poetry of Neruda, its lyrical depiction of creation is to be “sounded” in the truest sense of the word – outside; in the park of a library named in his honor. With this constellation of work, performance and venue, the internationality, beauty and timeless topicality of Neruda’s work will be made tangible – in a particularly fertile environment for this: the international community of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.
Der große Gesang | Canto General