The Book of Questions, III

The Book of Questions, III Study Guide

“The Book of Questions III” is one of seventy-four poems contained in Pablo Neruda’s “The Book of Questions" (“El libro de las preguntas”). Thought of another way, “III” is four questions in a book of 316. Each poem, or question, can be read independently, or they can be read all together.

Neruda completed “The Book of Questions” only months before his death in September 1973. When he died, it was one of eight unpublished poetry manuscripts on his desk. The book was published posthumously in 1991 with an English translation by the poet William O' Daly. This particular poem consists of four stanzas, each of which is made up of a couplet. Each stanza asks one question, broken up halfway through at a dramatic moment. Each odd-numbered line begins the question, while the even-numbered line resolves the question, though it doesn’t answer it. Some critics have compared Neruda's questions to Zen koans. Overall, the poem broaches philosophical questions through personifying objects that people encounter commonly in everyday life.