The famous British actress Julie Christie is in love with the poetry of Pablo Neruda and on many occasions has lent her voice to the stories of this Chilean writer. Her passion and labors in making Neruda’s work better known were recognized in 2012 when she received a commemorative medal from the Chilean government on the centenary of the poet’s birth. Last September 24, Christie charmed people attending the Hay Festival in Segovia, held on the campus of IE University, with her reading of poems by Neruda and another of her favorite writers, Nicolás Guillén. Accompanying her in the reading was Spanish film producer Rosa Bosch, who read the versions in Spanish.
Over the course of an hour, the two took turns reading, in English and Spanish, a selection of poems by these two contemporaries. A perfect combination, they said, because there are numerous similarities between the two. “There is a recurring reflection between the images that both of them use in their poetry,” says Julie Christie, “although with different styles.” Neruda from Chile, and Guillén from Cuba, transmitted in their work the political situation in the two countries, which at the time were the engines of change.
The recital began with the reading of a poem by Neruda that, in reality, is a “Letter to Miguel Otero Silva” and is reduced to a “conversation between two exiles who write to each other,” according Julie Christie. Neruda dedicated it to that Venezuelan intellectual in 1948.
The next reading was from Nicolás Guillén with “Ríos”, a poem based on a metaphor about Latin American rivers and that speaks of the problems inherited from a colonial past. It’s a piece that connects perfectly with “The United Fruit Company”, by Neruda, for its political overtones: it is dedicated to Chile and to Cuba.
The 300 people in the audience were greatly moved by one of the most touching poems by Guillén, his “Ballad of the Grandfathers”, where he evokes the importance of these figures in Cuban culture and pays homage to his two grandfathers, “the Spanish colonist and the black slave,” explained the actress.
Finally, Julie Christie and Rosa Bosch read “Aquí vivimos” (This is Where We Live), a poem by Neruda about Isla Negra, in Chile, where he spent the last years of his life with his third wife, Matilde.
Julie Christie and Rosa Bosch –“movie women who read poetry”, as they put it– read with affection and devotion each verse by these two Latin American poets who have so greatly influenced the works and lives of many other people.