Pablo Neruda
Picture: Blog de Poemas

The Tragic Story of Pablo Neruda`s Secret Daughter

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is famous primarily for his brilliant poems but his treatment of his only child was a far cry from the humanity and justice which he called for.

Neruda's only daughter - Malva Marina Reyes - died at the age of 8 due to hydrocephalus, a condition she was born with. Her mother was the only one left to care for her after her father stopped sending money even for treatment.

Pablo Neruda last saw his daughter when she was 2 years old, after which he sent her and her mother Maria Antonieta to live in Holland. The outbreak of World War II led to his ceasing correspondence with them and he never did see or hear anything about his daughter again.

Pablo and Maria Antonieta had first met during a tennis match, at which time he was a revered consul on the island of Java, while Maria was looking to have fun. She was highly impressed by the poet's genius, agreeing to marry and move to Chile with him.

She was not much fond of the setting in Santiago however and began to travel frequently with her husband to Buenos Aires. Later on they would move to Madrid, where Neruda would meet the love of his life - the Argentinian socialist Delia del Carril.

Malva Marina was born around this time, whom the poet himself described as an absurd creature with a vampire's head. As a result of her condition she would never learn to walk or speak.

Pablo Neruda Daughter
Picture: F. JULSING

Her mother became the sole caregiver, while Neruda traveled the world as a Chilean diplomat. With tensions rising in the capital, he sent them to The Hague. At that time he was in Barcelona with Delia del Carril.

When Maria Antonieta arrived in Holland she stopped receiving both letters and money from her husband. She made numerous attempts to find him and ask for money for Malva's treatment but ultimately failed.

Malva Marina died at just 8 years of age and it was said that her famous father did not even visit her grave. He did not speak of her at official events and did not dedicate even a single line of his emblematic poems to her. Whether he felt any sympathy toward his own daughter's fate is a question that remains unanswered.

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