Isabel Allende

Chilean Writer

Personal Life

Like Pablo Neruda, Allende shares a deep love of her country, evoking the landscapes and cultural tidbits in her stories; however she has lived a great part of her life outside of the country. She was born in Lima Peru, on the 2nd of August 1942. She returned to Chile when her father abandoned the family. Later when her step father's job as a diplomat took him abroad to Bolivia and Lebanon young Isabel went with the family, spending many years studying in international schools.

In the 1960s and early 70s she held several different jobs, all with literary creative slants. She wrote humorous articles for a women's feminist magazine, edited a children's magazine, created and stared in a television program. At one point she had a job translating romantic novels to Spanish, although she was quickly fired when her boss discovered that she would change the language to create stronger more independent heroines.

After her first cousin once removed, President Salvador Allende was killed in the military coup of 1973 Isabel once again needed to leave her homeland. She stayed at first, helping other people to flee the country or providing assistance in any way she could. At the time her stepfather was the Chilean Ambassador to Argentina and he her mother needed to escape to Venezuela. Isabel followed arriving in Caracas with her husband and two young children, Paula and Nicolas. She spent 13 years in Venezuela.

Professional Life

Allende has had great success with her work from the beginning. She has a strong base of readers and her books have been translated into over 30 languages. She continues to write all of her fictitious work in Spanish, although she is fluent in English.

She is considered to be not only one of the greatest female Latin American writers of all time, but among an elite group of the greatest writers in the world, male or female.

Her books are filled with magical realism, a technique that few writers have mastered, only most notably one of her biggest literary influences, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The stories themselves seem to pour out of her, as though she doesn't have enough time to type all the descriptions of her vivid imagination. Her work takes on an organic approach, and minor nuisances like chronological order are of little importance.

Generally the story revolves around a heroine, who has a good heart and driven my her passion, overcomes her fears to embark out on a new frontier and find love.

Allende has been quoted discussing the lives of her family members and close friends, saying that with each of these dynamic characters in her life she only needs to encompass them within a story.

While most of her work is fiction, her autobiography, Paula, written as a letter to her daughter as she sat in a coma, gives great insight into Allende as an author and a woman. It also provides a personal account of recent Chilean history, providing a non political view of the socialist government in the 1970s and the military coup of Pinochet.

One of her more recent novels, Ines of my Soul, is maybe one of her greatest works yet. It tells the story of a young woman who leaves Spain for the new world in order to find her lost husband. When she discovers that he has died she doesn't cower home, but rather continues her exploration. Here in the new world she takes a new lover, Pedro de Valdivia. With him, she journeys to the end of the world, to the unknown lands of Chile. With her heroic, but flawed partner she helps to conquer and civilize this new land, playing the role of impresario. This novel is one of historical fiction; it really humanizes the early history of Chile and allows the reader to connect to the past in a very intimate and true to life way.

Collection of Works

  • The House of the Spirits (Casa de los espíritus)
  • La gorda de porcelana
  • Of Love and Shadows
  • Eva Luna (Eva Luna)
  • The Stories of Eva Luna (Cuentos de Eva Luna)
  • The Infinite Plan (El plan infinito)
  • Paula (Paula)
  • Aphrodite (Afrodita)
  • Daughter of Fortune (Hija de la fortuna)
  • Portrait in Sepia
  • City of the Beass (La ciudad de las bestias)
  • My Invented Country (Mi país invitado)
  • Kingdom of the Golden Dragon
  • Forest of the Pygmies
  • Zorro (El Zorro)
  • Ines of My Soul (Inés del alma mía)

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Last Updated: 14 March 2014
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