We were told that one of the must-do things in Santiago is a visit to Pablo Neruda’s house. In fact, apparently, some of the best things to do in Chile are to visit his three houses in Santiago, Valparaiso and Isla Negra.
I know…. when I first heard that we could visit Neruda’s house when we were in Santiago, we had the same reaction too. Specifically, the thought running through our minds then was “Pablo who??”
In a nutshell, Neruda was a much-beloved Chilean politician and diplomat. However, he achieved legendary status because of his poems. His notable works of art include (I am not making any of this up) “Ode to French Fries”, “Ode to the Apple”, “Ode to an Artichoke”, “Ode to Salt”, “Ode to the hummingbird” , “Ode to my socks” and (still not making this up) “Ode to a Large Tuna at the Market”.
I guess it’s a testament to celebrating the little things in life…
Did I mention that he was a winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature too?
Pablo’s houses are famous for being as quirky as his poems. In life, Neruda had an intense love for the sea, but there was one small problem… he suffered from chronic seasickness. So he did the next best thing, he built his houses in the shape of ships.
His home in Santiago is called “Las Chascona” which roughly translates to “the uncombed”. It was built to be his “love nest” with his then-mistress and eventual third wife, Mathilde Urrutia who had… well… an unruly mane of hair.
Stepping into the house is a little like stepping into Alice’s Wonderland…. the only words I can think of describe it is “organized chaos”. There were secret passages running throughout the house and kitchen doors that lead into walk-in wardrobes. There were writing tables everywhere too, just in case he found inspiration at the most peculiar of times.
Being a diplomat, Pablo was quite the traveller. He was also an avid collector of the kookiest and most flamboyant/whimsical things he could find. His houses became storage spaces where he would litter curios from all over the world to create his “little pockets of creativity”
As a lauded poet, Neruda had a lot of famous artist friends as well.
We love the house of Pablo and I think the man says it best:
“In my house I have put
together a collection of small and large toys I can’t live without. The child who doesn’t play is not a child, but the man who doesn’t play has lost forever the child who lived in him and he will certainly miss him. I have also built my house like a toy house and I play in it from morning till night.”