Itinerant museum takes Nobel Prize-winning poet's legacy on the road

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In the heart of the Chilean capital Santiago's Bohemian Bellavista district, where the nightlife never stops and poets roam in search of inspiration, lies La Chascona, one of the three homes-turned-museums on the life of Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Now, the poetic, artistic and humanist legacy of the poet will be taken on the road through Espacio Neruda, an itinerant museum that can be set up anywhere around the globe.

The initiative aims to bring people closer to the author's work, according to the Pablo Neruda Foundation, which promotes, preserves and manages the legacy of the poet.

At a press conference held Wednesday at La Chascona, Fernando Saez, the executive director of the foundation, emphasized the importance of keeping the poet's legacy alive.

"We are working on everything that is Neruda's legacy," he said.

Espacio Neruda, which takes up an area of 1,000 square meters, will first be set up outside La Chascona, highlighting the poet's work through audiovisual and interactive exhibits, before traveling around the world like exhibitions of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.

According to Saez, those interested in the author of "Canto General," his tenth book of poems, will be able to discover "the context of his eagerness for construction and decoration" through Espacio Neruda.

Part of the driving force behind the initiative was the pandemic, which forced the museums to close for months, not only cutting off the foundation's revenue through ticket sales, but also keeping the public from exploring and finding inspiration in the poet's legacy, said Saez.

Prior to the pandemic, the three museums turned from Neruda's old-time houses attracted about 350,000 visitors a year. After they reopened in September 2021, their visitor numbers have not exceeded 15 percent of the pre-pandemic flow.

"We are concerned about the legacy and we believe in the richness and power of Neruda's words," said Saez.

However, there is also good news, including Chinese interest in the poet, who had an abiding fondness for China.

During the pandemic, the foundation published a special issue of its Cuaderno magazine, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Chile through the work of 20 Chinese poets.

"We are aware that Neruda had a special love for China and that is in his poems, it is in his travels, it is in his relationship with several poets, his deep friendship with many of them," Saez said.

In 2023, fans will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the Chilean poet and the 100th anniversary of the publication of "Crepusculario" (Book of Twilight), the first book by the winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature. 

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