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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
When I Was a Boy Neruda Called M Policarpo
by Poli Delani
Age Range: 9-11
Poli Délano was born in 1936 and at that time his family was living in Madrid (Spain) where they become friends with the poet Pablo Neruda and his wife Delia del Carril. Both families were originally from Chile.
Between 1940 and 1943, Neruda and his wife lived in Mexico City. This memoir is set at this time and follows the writer’s relationship with the young Enrique Délano Falcón – whose nickname became Policarpo and eventually shortened to Poli – and his adventures and misadventures.
In this book you will learn about Poli and his encounters with the most amazing animals and insects; of his experience of being bullied in a boarding school where he had to stay when the family and Neruda travelled to New York. Perhaps the most touching story is that of Poli wanting to buy a fountain pen and a watch and in order to find the money he decided to sell chewing gum at the cinema and clean cars in the car park. When the poor children saw him taking over their job, they violently sent him away. Poli was very angry and frustrated by the incident but his parents and Tio (uncle) Neruda calmly explained that those children needed the job to eat while his motives where purely superficial.
This memoir is full of intricate little accounts about Neruda: for example his passion for collecting things and the time spent in the antique markets in Mexico City looking for strange objects to add to his unique and growing collection; His very strange food habits, including insects and monkeys. But what clearly stands out here in this memoir is his touching relationship with a very young boy.
There are six of Neruda’s poems included in the book and a short biography of the poet that will clearly serve to introduce his life and work to younger generations. Manuel Monroy’s illustrations perfectly match the spirit of the text.