Isabel Allende 1942-
Chilean novelist, short story writer, memoirist, essayist, playwright, and children's writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Allende's career through 2001. See also Isabel Allende Criticism (Volume 97).
Respected today as one of the icons of contemporary Latin American literature, Allende documents the tumultuous social and political heritage of South America in her prose and memoirs, most notably in her first and best-known novel, La casa de los espíritus (1982; The House of the Spirits). Allende frequently draws upon her own experiences as well as those of her relatives in Chile to examine the violence and repression that characterizes much of Latin American history. Adopting the hallmark style of the 1960s Spanish American literary “boom” era, Allende's writing style integrates conventional realism with elements of fantasy and hyperbole—also known as “magic realism.” After moving to the United States, Allende began incorporating the cultural aspects of California's diverse Hispanic population into her prose. Widely translated around the globe, Allende's fiction has enjoyed international popular and critical acclaim, particularly with feminist scholars.
Allende was born in Lima, Peru, where her father was a Chilean diplomatic attaché. Although she eventually lost contact with her father after her parents divorced, Allende attended social events with his extended family during her childhood. This family network included Salvador Allende, her uncle and godfather, who served as president of Chile from 1970 to 1973. Raised in Santiago, Chile, Allende lived with her maternal grandparents, who later became models for the patriarch and matriarch of the family whose history is chronicled in The House of the Spirits. Traveling in South America, Europe, and the Middle East as an adolescent with her mother and diplomat stepfather, Allende eventually returned to Chile and took a job as a journalist, working on television programs and appearing on newsreels. From 1967 to 1974, Allende worked as an editor and staff writer for Paula magazine, writing a number of feminist articles as well as a recurring satirical column known as “Los impertinentes” (“The Impertinents”). In 1973 Allende's life abruptly changed when General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte led a military coup that resulted in the assassination of her uncle and the overthrow of his socialist government. Allende stayed in Chile for several months after the takeover, assisting the opposition to Pinochet's regime, until her own personal safety was jeopardized. In 1974 Allende escaped with her family to Caracas, Venezuela, where she wrote for the newspaper El Nacional. She eventually relocated to the United States and later held teaching positions at the University of Virginia, Montclair College, and the University of California, Berkeley. Allende's literary career grew out of a letter she wrote to her dying grandfather, a nearly one-hundred-year-old man who had remained in Chile. Although Allende never sent the letter to her grandfather, her memories of her family and her country were later transformed into her first novel, The House of the Spirits. Throughout the 1980s, Allende published a variety of novels and short story collections, including De amor y de sombra (1984; Of Love and Shadows), Eva Luna (1987), and Cuentos de Eva Luna (1989; The Stories of Eva Luna). In late 1991, while preparing for the publication of her novel El Plan Infinito (The Infinite Plan), Allende was notified that her daughter Paula had suddenly developed medical complications due to porphyry, a genetic disorder. Paula lingered in a coma for a year, during which Allende rarely left her side, until Paula eventually died in 1992. Allende later documented this period in her memoir Paula (1994). Since Paula's death, Allende has published several works, including Afrodita: Cuentos, recetas y otros afrodisíacos (1997; Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses ), a selection of essays,...
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