"We want a world where life is preserved, and the quality of life is enriched for everybody, not only for the privileged." -- Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende Llona (born 2 August 1942) is a Chilean writer with American citizenship. Isabel Allende: "¡Escribo bien! Por lo menos admítanme eso" [Emol], 17 December 2009Vengo a Chile por lo menos tres veces al año, me comunico con Chile todos los días a través de Skype con mi mamá, estoy enterada de lo que pasa y cuando me preguntan 'qué eres' digo automáticamente 'chilena'. Vivo en América, pero me siento profundamente chilena en la manera de vivir, de ser: soy mandona, metete, dominante, intrusa, hospitalaria, tribal. (Isabel Allende) Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the "magic realist" tradition, is one of the best-known female novelists in Latin America. She is largely famous for novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus) (1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias) (2002), which have been commercially successful. Allende has been called "the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author". In 2010 she received Chile's National Literature Prize.
Allende's novels are sometimes based upon her own personal experiences and often pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism. She has lectured extensively, and has also toured many American colleges to teach literature. Having adopted American citizenship in 2003, she currently resides in California with her husband. She is of Basque, Spanish, and Portuguese descent.
"All stories interest me, and some haunt me until I end up writing them. Certain themes keep coming up: justice, loyalty, violence, death, political and social issues, freedom.""Erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken.""Feminism is dated? Yes, for privileged women like my daughter and all of us here today, but not for most of our sisters in the rest of the world who are still forced into premature marriage, prostitution, forced labor - they have children that they don't want or they cannot feed.""Heart is what drives us and determines our fate. That is what I need for my characters in my books: a passionate heart. I need mavericks, dissidents, adventurers, outsiders and rebels, who ask questions, bend the rules and take risks.""I can promise you that women working together - linked, informed and educated - can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet.""I was born in ancient times, at the end of the world, in a patriarchal Catholic and conservative family. No wonder that by age five I was a raging feminist - although the term had not reached Chile yet, so nobody knew what the heck was wrong with me.""I'm aware of the mystery around us, so I write about coincidences, premonitions, emotions, dreams, the power of nature, magic.""What I fear most is power with impunity. I fear abuse of power, and the power to abuse."
Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru as the daughter of Francisca Llona Barros and Tomás Allende; the Chilean ambassador to Peru. Her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973; so Salvador is her first cousin once removed. Many sources cite Allende as being Salvador Allende's niece (without specifying that the relationship is that Tomas and Salvador are cousins); the confusion stems from Allende herself often referring to Salvador as her "'uncle" (tío) in her private life and public interviews. This is because in Spanish a "first cousin once removed" is translated as "second degree uncle" (tío en segundo grado).
In 1945, after Tomás had disappeared," Isabel's mother relocated with her three children to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953.
Between 1953 and 1958, Allende's mother married Ramón Huidobro and moved a lot. Huidobro was a diplomat appointed to Bolivia and Beirut. In Bolivia, Allende attended a North American private school; and in Beirut, Lebanon she attended an English private school. The family returned to Chile in 1958. Allende was also briefly home-schooled. In her youth, she read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.Allende graduated from a private high school at the age of sixteen.http://www.notablebiographies.com/A-An/Allende-Isabel.html
In 1970 Salvador Allende appointed Huidobro as ambassador to Argentina.
While living in Chile, Allende finished her secondary studies and met engineering student Miguel Frías whom she married in 1962. Reportedly, "Allende married early, into an Anglophile family and a kind of double life: at home she was the obedient wife and mother of two; in public she became, after a spell translating Barbara Cartland, a moderately well-known TV personality, a dramatist and a journalist on a feminist magazine."
From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, Chile, then in Brussels, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe. For a brief while in Chile, she also had a job translating romance novels from English to Spanish. However, she was fired for making unauthorized changes to the dialogue of the heroines to make them sound more intelligent as well as altering the Cinderella endings to let the heroines find more independence and do good in the world.
Allende and Frías' daughter Paula was born in 1963. In 1966, Allende again returned to Chile and her son Nicolás was born there that year.
Reportedly, "the CIA-backed military coup in September of 1973 (that brought Augusto Pinochet to power) changed everything" for Allende because "her name meant she was caught up in finding safe passage for those on the wanted lists" (helping until her mother and stepfather, a diplomat in Argentina, narrowly escaped assassination). When she herself was added to the list and began receiving death threats, she fled to Venezuela, where she stayed for 13 years. In Venezuela she was a columnist for El Nacional, a main newspaper. In 1978 she began a temporary separation from Miguel Frías. She lived in Spain for two months, then returned to her marriage.
During a visit to California in 1988, Allende met her second husband, attorney Willie Gordon. In 1994 she was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit, the first woman to receive this honor. In 1995, Allende obtained United States citizenship and currently lives in San Rafael, California. Most of her family lives near her with her son living "with his second wife and her grandchildren just down the hill; her son-in-law and his family live in the house she and her second husband, San Francisco lawyer and novelist William Gordon, vacated."
In 2006, she was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. In 2008, Allende received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University for her "distinguished contributions as a literary artist and humanitarian."
Allende started the Isabel Allende Foundation on December 9, 1996 to pay homage to her daughter, Paula Frías Allende who experienced a coma after complications of the disease porphyria placed her on a hospital bed. Paula was only twenty-eight years old when she died in 1992. The foundation is "dedicated to supporting programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."
Beginning in 1967, Allende was on the editorial staff for Paula magazine, and from 1969 to 1974 for the children's magazine Mampato, where she later was the Editor. She published two children's stories, La Abuela Panchita (Grandmother Panchita) and Lauchas y Lauchones, as well as a collection of articles, Civilice a Su Troglodita. She also worked in Chilean television production for channels 7 (humorous programs) and 13 from 1970 to 1974. As a journalist, she once sought an interview with Pablo Neruda, a notable Chilean poet. While Neruda accepted the interview, he told her that she had too much imagination to be a journalist and should be a novelist instead. He also advised her to compile her satirical columns in book form. She did so, and this became her first published book. In 1973, Allende's play El Embajador played in Santiago, a few months before she was forced to flee the country due to the coup.
In Allende's time in Venezuela, she was a freelance journalist for El Nacional in Caracas from 1976 to 1983 and an administrator of the Marrocco School in Caracas from 1979 to 1983.
In 1981, when Allende learned that her grandfather, aged 99, was on his deathbed, she started writing him a letter that later evolved into a book manuscript, The House of the Spirits (1982); the intent of this work was to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship. The book was a great success; Allende was compared to Gabriel García Márquez as an author of the style known as magical realism.
Allende's books have since become known for their vivid storytelling. Although Allende is often lumped together with the literary style of magical realism, her works often display elements of post-Boom literature, and as such her style cannot be described as purely adhering to magical realism. Allende also holds to a very methodical literary routine. She writes using a computer, working Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. "I always start on January 8," Allende stated; "a tradition she began in 1981 with a letter she wrote to her dying grandfather that would become the groundwork for her first novel, The House of the Spirits." Allende is also quoted as saying:
Allende's book Paula (1995) is a memoir of her childhood in Santiago, Chile and the following years she spent in exile. It is written in the form of a letter to her daughter Paula, who was being treated at a hospital in Spain following a porphyria-induced coma. In 1991, an error in medication resulted in severe brain damage and left Paula in a persistent vegetative state. Allende had her moved to a hospital in California where she died on 6 December 1992.
Allende's novels have been translated into over 30 languages and sold more than 56 million copies. There are three movies based on her novels currently in production ... Aphrodite, Eva Luna and Gift for a Sweetheart. Her 2008 book, The Sum of Our Days is a memoir. It focuses on her recent life with her immediate family, which includes her grown son, Nicolás; second husband, William Gordon; and several grandchildren. A novel set in New Orleans was published in 2010, The Island Beneath the Sea.
Despite or perhaps because of her commercial success and "being compared to Gabriel García Márquez," Allende has been the subject of negative criticism from other authors and literary critics ... among them Roberto Bolaño and Gabriel García Márquez. In an article published in Entre paréntesis, Bolaño writes that Allende's literature is anemic and compares it to a person on his deathbed. Bolaño has been one of her harshest critics, saying that it is to give her credit to call her a writer and that she is rather a "writing machine". Literary critic Harold Bloom concurs with Bolaño that Allende is a bad writer, and adds that she only reflects a determinate period and that afterwards everybody will have forgotten her. Los éxitos y las críticas El Clarin. 9 February 2003Isabel Allende es una muy mala escritora y sólo refleja un período determinado. Después todos se olvidarán de ella. (Harold Bloom)Me parece una mala escritora, simple y llanamente, y llamarla escritora es darle cancha. Ni siquiera creo que Isabel Allende sea una escritora, es una escribidora. (Roberto Bolaño) Of Bolaño, Allende said to El Clarín that she is honoured to be represented by him as a Chilean, although she remembered Bolaño regarded her as trash. Isabel Allende : “Chile es un país bélico por naturaleza” , El Clarín de Chile, 20 September 2009Para nosotros como chilenos es un honor que Bolaño nos represente. Sin embargo, hay que recordar que Bolaño consideraba que yo era una basura pero eso no le quita ningún mérito. (Isabel Allende)La verdad es que en Chile nunca o muy rara vez he tenido una buena crítica. Y pese a que tengo innumerables lectores y hasta se piratean mis libros pero el mundo pequeño de los literatos de Chile me detestan. (Isabel Allende) In the same interview, Allende recognises that she has rarely had good criticism in Chile and that Chilean intellectuals "detest" her. Novelist Gonzalo Contreras says that "she commits a grave error, to confuse the commercial success with literary quality". Isabel Allende critica duramente a escritores chilenos y desata polémica, La Tercera. 9 February 2003Ella incurre en un gravísimo error, confundir éxito de ventas con calidad literaria. (Gonzalo Contreras) Allende disagrees with these assessments of her, and she has also been quoted as saying:
Alternatively, it has been noted that "Allende's impact not only on Latin American literature but also on world literature cannot be overestimated." The Los Angeles Times has called Allende "a genius," and she has received many international awards, including the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, granted to writers "who have contributed to the beauty of the world." She has recently been called a "literary legend" by Latino Leaders Magazine, which in its 2007 article named Allende as the third most influential Latino leader in the world.