Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner, Pablo Neruda

Celebrating 40 Years Of SG-Chile Ties: A Tale Of Two Cities

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Chile and Singapore, the Embassy of Chile held a celebration at the iconic Raffles Hotel Singapore in memory of Pablo Neruda, a celebrated poet and Nobel Prize winner.

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“The smell and sound of a city, humid smells,
high-pitched sounds rise from the street.
The lizards sunbathe in the white wall of my room.
The water in my sink is hot, mosquitoes born in the equator bite my ankles.
I look at the window, then at the map.
I am in Singapore.”

Daytime In Singapore, Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda would often write poems and books on the veranda of his hotel room while he sipped on gin cocktails during his visits to Singapore in the 1930s.

The Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner, who always chose to stay at the iconic Raffles Hotel, also wrote of his appreciation for Singapore’s rainy weather, its colourful wildlife, and its bustling Chinatown and hawker stalls.

In 1996, the hotel named one of its suites after him, and the Pablo Neruda Suite remains at the hotel to this day.

A Consul of Chile between 1927 and 1932 to Singapore, the Latin American poet was also posted to different cities of the east such as Rangoon, Colombo, and Jakarta (known as Batavia then).

The two books – From ‘Neftali to Pablo, Chronicles of Neruda in Singapore’ and ‘Unexpected Connections, In Commemoration of the 40 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Chile and Singapore’ – launched to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Chile and Singapore. | Photo Credit: Straits Times/Desmond Wee

In his latest books published by the Embassy of Chile to Singapore last Dec to commemorate its 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Singapore, ‘From Neftali to Pablo, Chronicles of Neruda in Singapore’ and ‘Unexpected Connections, In Commemoration of the 40 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Chile and Singapore’, it sought to reflect the richness and diversity of the bilateral relationship between Singapore and Chile.

The latter also includes the main milestones of these four decades of the bilateral relationship and the activities that Chile and Singapore have carried out last year to celebrate the special occasion.

Former Ambassador of Chile to Singapore James Sinclair gives an opening speech to celebrate 40 years of Chilean-Singaporean partnership and poet Pablo Neruda’s experience as a Consul in Singapore during the 1920s. | Photo Credit: Kate Hong

Former ambassador of Chile to Singapore James Sinclair said: “You would think that countries that are so far apart, so distant, could never get together, but Chile opened themselves to Asia, where the market and opportunities were.”

In appreciation of Singapore’s culture and environmental diversity, Neruda wrote the book ‘Daytime in Singapore’ during his first visit to Singapore in 1927.

It was a brief diary in which Neruda describes with astonishment everything he witnessed first-hand.

Mr Sinclair added: “With this publication together with the cultural activities organised by the Embassy – all done with commitment and support of many institutions – we hope to connect our communities, and build a foundation for new unexpected connections and enhance the future agenda.” 

“Thirty-one years ago in Singapore,
I still remember blood-warm rain
was falling on ancient white walls
eaten away by humidity…”

– Ode to a black pantheress. Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda

“I wandered teeming alleyways:
betel, the red nut,
couched on beds of
fragrant leaves,
through the sweltering siesta
the durian fruit
decayed…”

– Ode to a black pantheress. Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda

“How that cosmopolitan crowd invades us!…
If we get distracted for a moment, a fortune-teller has taken our hand to tell us the good fortune;
a snake charmer lets cobras crawl almost to
our feet, producing natural alarm…
We can’t get rid of that crowd of vendors
who offer us malacca canes,
chinoiseries, precious stones, beetles, etc.
We are in the Bazaar of the East
with all its racial strength.”

– Diurno de Singapur
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