Did Pablo Neruda die of cancer?

If you forget me
He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His death on September 23 1973 was the result of a medical treatment in the Santa Mariá Clinic in the Chilean city of Santiago. The official statement: he died from complications that were the result of prostate cancer. Did Neruda Pablo Neruda die of cancer or the complications after the treatment for this disease?

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His death on September 23 1973 was the result of a medical treatment in the Santa Mariá Clinic in the Chilean city of Santiago. The official statement: he died from complications that were the result of prostate cancer. Did Neruda Pablo Neruda die of cancer or the complications after the treatment for this disease?

Pablo Neruda (1966)
Pablo Neruda in 1966.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Czech Realism

Pablo Neruda was born as Ricardo Eliécer Neftali Reyes Basoalto on July 12, 1904. He took on the name Pablo Neruda after the Czech poet Jan Neruda. This Czech poet was also a writer, critic and one of the leading figures of Czech Realism.

The Chilean Neruda, Pablo Neruda, started writing when he was only ten years old. Because his parents did not approve of his aspirations to become a writer, he decided to use the pseudonym. His first poems were published in the local newspaper La Mañana. He was greatly inspired by the social developments in his country. As of 1920, he started using the name Pablo Neruda more often, as his poems were published in more newspapers.

Neruda did not only make fame as a poet. He was an international diplomat in Spain and married the Dutch woman Maria Antonia Hagenaar. She gave birth to his daughter in 1934 (Malva Marina). The couple decided to split up in 1936. At that time the Spanish Civil War in Spain broke out. Neruda exiled in Monaco. He chose the side of the Communist Party of Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. In 1938, he moved to Paris. He made efforts to bring those who were opposed to the regime of Franco to safety.

Between 1940 and 1943, he was the consul in Mexico for the Chilean government. At this time, his ex-wife and daughter were in The Netherlands. He found out, that his daughter died in 1940, soon after The Netherlands was involved in the Second World War.

Soviet Union

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile. He did not hide his admiration for the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin. He claimed that the war could only be won, because of the involvement of the Soviet Union. Neruda wrote articles about Communism and the political leaders of that time. In 1946, he was elected as senator for the Communist Party of Chile. Because of his political beliefs, he was forced into exile between 1948 and 1952. He made his way to Argentina and in 1952, he could return to his home country. He took the side of Salvador Allende, who would later become the president of Chile.

Nobel Prize

In 1970 Neruda was forced to see that Allende was more popular than he was. He decided to support Allende, who won the elections and was appointed as president in the same year. Allende was a socialist leader, the first in the history of Chile. One of the first decisions the new president made, was appointing Neruda as ambassador in France. Between 1970 and 1972, Neruda lived in Paris. This would be his last diplomatic position he would hold. Because of his health issues, he decided to move back to Chile.

The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to him in 1971. The committee members weren’t all in favor of awarding him this prize since he made no efforts in the past to speak out his admiration for Joseph Stalin. Still, he was awarded this prize

Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Coup d’état

On September 11, 1973, a long period of political imbalance ended with the Coup d’état. The government of Allende was overthrown, with the support of the army and the United States. United States president Richard Nixon, was strongly opposed to the left-wing government lead by Allende. Very soon after this coup, the United States spoke out their support for the new military government. This lead to the rise of General Augusto Pinochet. Allende died during this coup.

When the military troops were attacking the parliament building in Santiago, Allende broadcasted his last speech. He referred to himself in the past tense. Moments later, he was found dead. He killed himself using an AK-47 that he received as a gift from the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Neruda was devastated by the actions. At that time, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was supposed to start medical treatment. In the evening of September 23rd, he died. According to the official statement, he died of heart failure. He had been in a hospital for five days.

After his death, many questioned the official statement about his death. There were claims, that Neruda was killed on behalf of the military regime. His driver was convinced that Neruda was poisoned.

It wasn’t until 2013 when the remains of the body of Neruda were excavated. No evidence of poison was found on the remains. Investigators believed that the prostate cancer he was diagnosed with was not life-threatening. According to the experts, there should not be doubt about this. But, the question still remains – as you can read in the article of BBC News – what caused the death of Pablo Neruda.

The question if Neruda died of cancer seems to be answered. But, the investigation does not answer the real cause of his death. This is still a mystery. It is not clear if the real cause can be revealed after so many years.

Pablo Neruda and his poetry

The poetry of Neruda isn’t only about his political beliefs. If you forget me is a poem that fits right into this article, about the death of this poet. Of course, the truth about his death should be uncovered. But, there is also the fact that this was a talented poet. The poem If you forget me is, therefore, the best way to end this article about Neruda.

If you forget me

If you forget me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.


Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
If you forget me


If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.


If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.


if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.


— Pablo Neruda

Did Pablo Neruda die of cancer?
Article Name
Did Pablo Neruda die of cancer?
More about the investigation of the death of Pablo Neruda.
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The Ministry of Poetic Affairs
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