The Book of Questions

The Book of Questions

Completed only months before his death in 1973, The Book of Questions is the sixth volume in William O’Daly’s Late-Career and Posthumous Neruda series. These brief poems, composed entirely of unanswerable questions, express the Nobel Laureate’s lifelong dedication to revealing an inner structure of feeling that underlies all experience. In his quest for self-revelation, Neruda finds the mundane objects of the world most fruitful not as poetic ornament, but as forceful paradox inviting speculation. The rational mind alone cannot find a completely satisfactory response to such poetry, so the reader is driven deeper into each poem in the search for inarticulate truth.

The Book of Questions is by turns Orphic, comic, surreal, and poignant. “Tell me,” he asks, “is the rose naked / or is that her only dress?” In these poems, the sacred and the profane become the Janus masks of the world, reality defined in the margins of a silence molded by encounters between the taken-for-granted things of the daily world and the boundless imagination of one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets. These poems are openings rather than closures. At the end, he leaves us with yet another enigmatic beginning.

William O’Daly has made luminous, lyrical versions that remain faithful to the Spanish, an American English equivalent that approaches the resonance of the original without sacrificing the sheer hypnotic power of Neruda’s precise vision.

“Dazzling.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“Cryptic and intriguing”
Library Journal

“The English versions of the poems are excellent.”
Choice