. . .
. . .My mission was to assault the coastal peace of the poet Pablo Neruda and, by means of my interviews with him, to achieve for the depraved readers of our rag something like, in my director's words, "the erotic geography of the poet."
. . .
I remained a long time on Isla Negra, and to support the laziness that invaded me every night, afternoon, and morning before the blank page, I decided to prowl around the house of the poet and, while I was at it, to stalk those who were also prowling. That was how I met the characters of this novel.
. . .
Beatriz González, with whom I lunched several times during her visits to the courtrooms of Santiago, wanted me to relate for her the history of Mario "no matter how long it might take or how much I might invent." Thus excused by her, I committed both faults.
As a result of two trivial yet fortunate circumstances, Mario Jiménez launched himself on a new career in the month of June 1969. The first was his aversion to fishing -- or, more to the point, an aversion to those tasks that required him to be out of bed before dawn, a propitious time of day for dreaming about daring affairs with women as passionate as those who appeared on the screen at the San Antonio Movie Theater. This habit, as well as a permanent susceptibility to real or invented colds, excused him, more often than not, from preparing the tackle for his father's boat, gave him full license to stay snuggling under thick ponchos from the southern islands, and allowed him to perfect his oneiric idylls until his father, José Jiménez, returned from the high seas, soaked and hungry, at which time Mario, to appease his own guilty conscience, prepared lunch: toasty fresh bread, a lively salad of tomatoes and onions with parsley and cilantro, and for himself an aspirin, which he dramatically ingested at the moment his progenitor's sarcasm penetrated the very marrow of his bones.
"Go get a job" was his father's brutal, straightforward statement, summing up an accusatory stare that had lasted at least five, if not ten, minutes.
"Sure, Dad," Mario answered, wiping his nose on the sleeve of his jacket.
The second circumstance consisted of Mario's possession of a cheery Legnano bicycle, which carried him beyond the rather limited horizon of the fisherman's bay and into the port of San Antonio which, though insignificant, seemed Babylonian in comparison to Mario's own little hamlet. The mere sight of those movie posters of women with promiscuous mouths, and tough guys with impeccable teeth chewing cigars, sent him into a trance only two hours in a dark theater could possibly cure.
"I've come in response to the ad."
"Do you own a bicycle?" the functionary asked indifferently.
"Yes," answered heart and lips in unison.
"Good," said the man as he wiped off his glasses. "We need a postman for Isla Negra."
"What a coincidence, I live right near there, at the bay."
"That's just fine. The bad part is that you'll have only one client."
"That's right. Everybody else in the area is illiterate. They can't even read their bills."
"So who's the client?"
"The salary isn't worth shit. The other postmen make it on their tips. But with just one client you'll only make enough to go to the movies once a week."
Should Japanese technology ever invent a means of fusing electronics with human beings, the people of Isla Negra could claim to have been precursors of the phenomenon. But they would do so without arrogance, full of the same humility and sweetness with which they now drank in the bard's speech.
"Exactly on hundred years ago today, a poor and splendid poet, the most profoundly despairing of all, wrote this prophecy: ĎA l'aurore, armés d'une ardente patience, nous entrerons aux splendides villes.' At dawn, armed with burning patience, we shall enter the splendid cities.
"I believe in that prophecy of Rimbaud, the clairvoyant. I come from a faraway province in a country separated from all other countries in the world by its sharply defined geography. I was the most obscure poet and my poetry was regional, painful, and pluvial. But I always believed in mankind. I never lost hope. As a result, I have arrived here today with my poetry and my flag.
"To conclude, I want to say to all men of good faith, to the workers, and to the poets, that the entire future was expressed by Rimbaud in that one sentence: only with burning patience shall we conquer the splendid city that will give light, justice, and dignity to all men."
"Thus poetry will not have sung in vain."