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Book fair pays tribute to Chilean poets

Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 Keystone Archive

The South American country of Chile is the guest of honour at this year’s International Book Fair in Geneva.

This content was published on April 27, 2004 - 17:14

Now in its 18th year, the five-day exhibition, which starts on Wednesday, is one of Switzerland’s most highbrow cultural events.

“We’ve been waiting for three years to welcome Chile to Geneva,” said the president of the fair, Pierre-Marcel Favre.

“We’re proud to host a country that is so rich culturally and which has produced so many important writers.”

With 4,500 kilometres of coastline, Chile is the longest country in the world, with a diverse landscape that ranges from the arid Atacama Desert in the north to the vast Patagonian Plains in the south.

Native son

According to the event’s organisers, Chile’s geographic and climactic diversity served as an inspiration for two of the 20th century’s most celebrated poets, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.

Neruda’s oeuvre includes an epic poem, “Canto General de Chile”, in which he examined the nature, people and historical destiny of the South American continent.

In 1971, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams”.

His life in exile was also portrayed in the 1995 film, “Il Postino”.

Modern Cervantes

Another of Chile’s native sons, Gonzalo Rojas, is also expected to attend the Geneva event to talk about his life as a poet.

Rojas, who was born in 1917, received last year’s Cervantes Prize – the most prestigious literary distinction in the Spanish-speaking world.

Rojas is widely credited with raising the international profile of South American literature and has been described as the “master of Ibero-American poets”.

Visitors to the Geneva fair will get a glimpse of Neruda and Rojas’s native land through an audiovisual presentation entitled “Sounds of Chile”.

A 300-metre-long stand at the centre of the exhibition will also offer a sampling of the country’s rich literary production, as well as a taste of its world-famous wines and other produce.

swissinfo, Anna Nelson in Geneva

In brief

The South American country of Chile is the guest of honour at this year’s International Book Fair in Geneva.

Poet Pablo Neruda is to be honoured. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Gonzalo Rojas is also expected to attend. He received last year’s Cervantes Prize – the most prestigious literary distinction in the Spanish-speaking world.

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