Two books launched to commemorate 40 years of Chile-Singapore ties

The two books were launched  to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Chile and Singapore.
The two books were launched to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Chile and Singapore.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - When Chilean poet and Nobel prize winner Pablo Neruda visited Singapore in the 1930s, he always chose to stay at the iconic Raffles Hotel.

The famous poet, who was also Consul of Chile at the time, lived in different cities in the East from 1927-1932. He had postings in Colombo, Singapore, Rangoon and Batavia which is now Jakarta.

While in Singapore, he would often write poems and books on the veranda of his hotel room while he sipped on gin cocktails. In 1996, the hotel named one of its suites after him, and the Pablo Neruda Suite remains at the hotel to this day.

In one of his books, titled Daytime In Singapore, Neruda wrote: "The smell and sound of a city, humid smells, high-pitches 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."

The Latin American poet, considered one of the greatest exponents of Spanish-American literature, also wrote of his appreciation for Singapore's rainy weather, its colourful wildlife, and its bustling Chinatown and hawker stalls.

Snippets of his adventures here have been documented in a new book, From Neftali To Pablo, Chronicles Of Neruda In Singapore.

Published by the Embassy of Chile in Singapore, the book is part of a set of two. They were launched on Tuesday (Dec 10) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Chile and Singapore.

The second book, titled Unexpected Connections, In Commemoration Of The 40 Years Of Diplomatic Relations Between Chile And Singapore, chronicles the two nations' shared milestones in the past 40 years.

Speaking at the launch of the books on Tuesday evening, Ambassador of Chile to Singapore James Sinclair said that Neruda marvelled at the beauty of Singapore, and tried to capture the culture of its people, its smells and its food in his writings.

Mr Sinclair said: "The Chilean Embassy is please to give you these two books that reflect the richness and diversity of the bilateral relationship between both countries."