Apropos Robert Fulford’s article on John Cheever, "Good Writer, Bad Man": During the late 1960s, Argentine Jorge Luis Borges said of Chilean Pablo Neruda
"I think of him as a very fine poet, a very fine poet. I don’t admire him as a man, I think of him as a very mean man."
When asked to elaborate, Borges continued:
"Well, he wrote a book — well, maybe here I’m being political — he wrote a book about the tyrants of South America, and then he had several stanzas against the United States. Now he knows that that’s rubbish. And he had not a word against Perón. Because he had a lawsuit in Buenos Aires, that was explained to me afterwards, and he didn’t care to risk anything. And so, when he was supposed to be writing at the top of his voice, full of noble indignation, he had not a word to say against Perón. And he was married to an Argentine lady, he knew that many of his friends had been sent to jail. He knew all about the state of our country, but not a word against him. At the same time, he was speaking against the United States, knowing the whole thing was a lie, no? But, of course, that doesn’t mean anything against his poetry. Neruda is a very fine poet, a great poet in fact. And when they gave [ Miguel de Asturias ] the Nobel Prize, I said that it should have been given to Neruda! Now when I was in Chile, and we were on different political sides, I think he did the best thing to do. He went on a holiday during the three or four days I was there so there was no occasion for our meeting. But I think he was acting politely, no? Because he knew that people would be playing him up against me, no? I mean, I was an Argentine, poet, he was a Chilean poet, he’s on the side of the Communists, I’m against them. So I felt he was behaving very wisely in avoiding a meeting that would have been quite uncomfortable for both of us."
Source: Richard Burgin, Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, (Holt, Rhinehart, & Winston, 1968)