22 December 2007

Antonio Skármeta, Il Postino, 1985

Formerly a journalist, Skármeta originally called his novel Ardiente Paciencia, then El Cartero de Neruda, then after the success of the 1994 film (actually the second film of the book) simply Il Postino. He recounts a Chilean postman’s friendship with the world’s greatest love poet, Pablo Neruda, and how Neruda unlocked the teenage postman’s own romantic creativity in his pursuit of the beautiful Beatriz González. The story was drawn from personal experience after Skármeta was asked by his newspaper editor to dig up some scandal on Neruda, the end result being a whole different story. I was rather pleased that the book goes a lot further than the film, which was heavy on sweetness yet decisive about what kind of film it was actually meant to be, and by the film’s relocation of the story to Capri in the Mediterranean (where Neruda sat out his exile from Chile for his communism in the 1950s) it was able to omit the book’s strong undercurrent of bitterness caused by the rise of Pinochet. The romantic and the political don’t make good bedfellows in this book and sadly the political wins out, a sweet fantasy killed off by a bitter, fascist political reality. Well written and entertaining for the most part, with surprisingly darker tones than the film.   PY

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