It Happens That I Tire of Having to Be Modern:
Analytical Essay in Response to “Walking around” by Pablo Neruda
Original work and its translation by Ursula Curiosa
Translation from Spanish
Original title: “Sucede que me canso de tener que ser moderna: ensayo analítico en respuesta al poema 'Walking around' por Pablo Neruda” (2022)
Translation by the author
Originally published by The Pablo Neruda Foundation.
(CC) 2022: Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0
In the year 1935 in Spain, Pablo Neruda released in two volumes the first edition of his book Residencia en la Tierra I y II (1925-1935)1to all residents of the Earth. His poem “Walking around,” titled in English2, was included in the book. Neruda—the future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971—was 31 years old at its publishing. There was an election in Madrid in October 1935 that named Neruda as a private consul from Chile in Spain. The Spanish Civil War began in the year 1936: Neruda opposed fascists and their warlike hope for a world-wide authoritarian modernity.
The daily grind of modern life contains venoms. “This atmosphere,” Berman comments to us, includes “expansion of experiential possiblities and destruction of moral boundaries and personal bonds, self-enlargement and self-derangement, phantoms in the street and in the soul … the atmosphere in which modern sensibility is born.”3The speaker of “Walking around” is clouded upon strolling through the modern city.
The verb “sucede”4 appears four times in the poem. Without judging, the speaker describes her state. She abdicates responsability and fault. She cultivates a passive and almost detached attitude. It happens that she tires of free will. “It happens that I tire of being a man”56: one tires of heteropatriarchy. Such sleepiness underscores the spirit that the bosses might require. We do not want the deep anonymity of the city to erase us. One must struggle.
Buy nothing. Capitalism denies the right to “not see establishments.../nor marketplaces”. The anti-capitalist viewpoint does not offer glasses nor elevators, as not to change the focus nor come closer to that which is high-up nor the divine.
We suprised “a law clerk with a cut lily”. In a supposedly random manner, so that the non-authoritarian ethic would triumph, the speaker has already obtain the lily and also has identified the law clerk. In this way the bourgeois archetype does not know The Earch nor knows what to do with enraged people like the giver of the flower.
Modern political violence in the style of “to give death to a nun” is unbearable. What form of violence? Harrassment? Assassination? Not praying? What happens, happens. “An earstrike” would leave her brains scrambled to the end of helping her to Heaven. It's the goal of catholicism, right? With sick irony, she comments upon the insanity of any well-accepted lie.
There is dignity in work. The worker demands that her companions reject the bourgeois fashion of a high level of consumption. Prison faces absorb, think, and eat every day without the permission of God nor of the Dollar.
So, she sees modern life where we are of root and of tomb in ignorance.
“Monday burns like oil.” Using fossil fuels is an energy binge that undergirds and fortifies capitalist production. The environment is garbage until the last drop of oil burns. So, we will all work on Mondays with the Sun or with oil-fed light. The characterization of the work week indicates much hate on the part of the speaker directed towards the capitalist system in which she happens to live modernly. The orthopedics stores do not sell us anything nowadays. We know how to walk and how we cry between “slow dirty tears”.
In totality, the vision of “Walking around” has a grand sense of pessimism in regard to the future of the dwellers of the modern bourgeois city. It walks and rejects at the same time. There is no hope, but rather a stroll.
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1 Residence on the Earth I and II (1925-1935)
2 But capitalized in the Spanish convention.
3 Berman, Marshall. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity. 1982/1988. Penguin Books Ltd.
4 “It happens,” with a casualness.
5 All quotations, other than form Berman's work, are from “Walking around” by Pablo Neruda (1935).
6 “Sucede que me canso de ser hombre”