- Allende, Isabel
▪ 1996Author of four novels, including the critically acclaimed and popular La casa de los espíritus (1982; The House of the Spirits, 1985), Isabel Allende wrote in the style of magic realism, which incorporated fantastic and mythical elements into realistic fiction. Her work included some of the most spiritual and highly charged literature of the late 20th century. Sometimes compared to Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, and Carlos Castaneda, Allende was one of the few female Latin-American authors whose name was well known and whose works (translated into more than two dozen languages) could be found on bookshelves worldwide. She considered herself part of a feminist literary awakening, one that tied together minority writers with a shared "dimension of emotion, passion, obsession and dream."Born on Aug. 2, 1942, in Lima, Peru, Allende spent her adolescence in Chile, where her uncle, Pres. Salvador Allende, was assassinated in 1973 in a military coup. With her husband, Miguel Frias, and children, Paula and Nicolás, Allende immediately fled to Venezuela, where she lived in exile for the next several years. She and Frias divorced around the time her maternal grandfather was diagnosed as being terminally ill. It was the divorce, coupled with her deep respect for her grandfather, that spurred her first novel, La casa de los espíritus. The book was a retelling of much of her family history, and it was later made into a motion picture. After immigrating to the United States in 1987, Allende took up residence outside San Francisco with her second husband, William Gordon, a lawyer who claimed to have fallen in love with her through her novels. Allende said that it was writing her fourth novel, El plan infinito (1991; The Infinite Plan, 1993), that brought her closest to her husband and to an America she had grown to respect deeply. Her other works include De amor y de sombra (1984; Of Love and Shadows, 1987), Eva Luna (1987; Eng. trans., 1988), and Cuentos de Eva Luna (1989; The Stories of Eva Luna, 1991), a collection of short stories.Allende's first nonfiction work, Paula (1994; Eng. trans., 1995), was written as a letter to her daughter. After falling into a coma resulting from a hereditary blood disease, the daughter died in 1992. During the year of her illness, Allende found solace by "writing" to her daughter every day, often about a long legacy of female endurance: "I think of my great-grandmother, of my clairvoyant grandmother, of my own mother, of you, and of my granddaughter who will be born in May, a strong female chain going back to the first woman, the universal mother." It was partly this legacy that made Allende's such a strong and passionate literary voice. (SARA N. BRANT)
* * *▪ Chilean American authorborn Aug. 2, 1942, Lima, PeruChilean American writer in the magic realist tradition who is considered one of the first successful woman novelists from Latin America.Allende was born in Peru to Chilean parents. She worked as a journalist in Chile until she was forced to flee to Venezuela after the assassination (1973) of her uncle, Chilean Pres. Salvador Allende (Allende, Salvador). In 1981 she began writing a letter to her terminally ill grandfather that evolved into her first novel, La casa de los espíritus (1982; The House of the Spirits). It was followed by the novels De amor y de sombra (1984; Of Love and Shadows), Eva Luna (1987), and El plan infinito (1991; The Infinite Plan) and the collection of stories Cuentos de Eva Luna (1990; The Stories of Eva Luna). All are examples of magic realism, in which realistic fiction is overlaid with elements of fantasy and myth. Her concern in many of these works is the portrayal of South American politics, and her first four works reflect her own experiences and examine the role of women in Latin America. The Infinite Plan, however, is set in the United States, and its protagonist is male.Allende followed those works of fiction with the novels Hija de la fortuna (1999; Daughter of Fortune), about a Chilean woman who leaves her country for the California gold rush of 1848–49, and Retrato en sepia (2000; Portrait in Sepia), about a woman tracing the roots of her past. El Zorro (2005; Zorro) is a retelling of the well-known legend, and Inés del alma mía (2006; Inés of My Soul) tells the fictionalized story of Inés Suárez, the mistress of conquistador Pedro de Valdivia (Valdivia, Pedro de).Allende's first nonfiction work, Paula (1994), was written as a letter to her daughter, who died of a hereditary blood disease in 1992. A more lighthearted book, Afrodita: cuentos, recetas, y otros afrodisíacos (1997; Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses), shared her personal knowledge of aphrodisiacs and included family recipes. Mi país inventado (2003; My Invented Country) recounted her self-imposed exile after the Sept. 11, 1973, revolution in Chile and her feelings about her adopted country, the United States—where she has lived since the early 1990s—after the September 11 attacks of 2001. She published another memoir about her extended family, La suma de los dias (The Sum of Our Days), in 2007.In 1996 Allende used the profits from Paula to fund the Isabel Allende Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations targeting issues that women and girls in Chile and the San Francisco Bay area face.
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