IN HIS NATIVE CHILE, HIS JOWLY LIKE-ness hangs on the walls of TV-repair shops and his verses turn up on key-chains. But like most poets, the Nobel Prize-winning Pablo Neruda has had little impact in America—until now. Since the U.S. release of The Postman, the Italian film about Neruda's (fictional) friendship with a love-struck but tongue-tied mail carrier, sales of his work have doubled in the U.S. Love, a volume of poems published by Miramax, the distributor of Postman—a surprise nominee for the Best Picture Oscar—has sold 25,000 copies.
What's the appeal? Neruda, who died in 1973, "teaches people to see simple things in a poetical mood," says Antonio Skarmeta, author of Burning Patience, on which the movie was based. The son of a train conductor, Neruda, an ardent Communist, gained fame for his odes to the quotidian—everything from rain to artichokes—as well as for his love poems and political verse. Neruda may not wind up on keychains here, but who knows? Says Susan Dalsimer, Miramax Books' VP: "Who would have predicted Jane Austen would be a bestseller in 1996?"