Isabel Allende

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Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Isabel Allende has published a number of novels, including La casa de los espíritus (1982; The House of the Spirits, 1985), which established her reputation, De amor y de sombra (1984), Eva Luna (1987), El plan infinito (1991), and Hija de la fortuna (1999). She has also published an account of her daughter’s death in Paula (1994), as well as a collection of children’s stories entitled La gorda de Porcelana (1984), and a collection of humorous pieces poking fun at machismo, originally published in the magazine Paula, entitled Civilice a su troglodita (1974).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Isabel Allende has been the recipient of numerous prestigious literary prizes, including the Panorama Literario Novel of the Year (1983), Author of the Year in Germany (1984 and 1986), and the Grand Prix d’Évasion in France (1984), as well as the Colima prize for best novel in Mexico (1985). A 1993 film version of La casa de los espíritus, directed by Bille August, was a box-office success.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Isabel Allende (ah-YEHN-day) was a journalist before she turned to fiction, and she has published widely in many forms. In addition to news and feature articles, Allende has written fiction for children, including La gorda de porcelana (1984) and her internationally popular trilogy Ciudad de las bestias (2002; City of the Beasts, 2002), El reino del dragón de oro (2003; Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, 2004), and El bosque de los Pigmeos (2004; Forest of the Pygmies, 2005). Her humor pieces include the essay collection Civilice a su troglodita: Los impertinentes de Isabel Allende (1974), and Cuentos de Eva Luna (1990; The Stories of Eva Luna, 1991) is a collection of her short stories. Allende has also written many essays, television scripts, and film documentaries. Her book-length memoir of her daughter’s illness and death, Paula (1994; English translation, 1995), includes excursions into her own life, and in 2007 she published a second memoir, La suma de los días (The Sum of our Days, 2008). Her book Afrodita: Cuentos, recetas, y otros afrodisiacos (1997; Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses, 1998) is unclassifiable by genre, being a mingling of erotic recipes, stories, old wives’ tales, and advice about food and sex. Some of Allende’s work blurs the boundaries between novel and creative nonfiction. The real people and events of her own and her country’s past figure largely in her fiction writing, and “magical” elements, such as telepathy and clairvoyance, sometimes appear in her nonfiction.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Isabel Allende’s books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages and have been best sellers in Europe, Latin America, and Australia as well as the United States. A few of the dozens of awards and honors Allende has won include Chile’s Best Novel of the Year award in 1983 for The House of the Spirits, France’s Grand Prix d’Evasion in 1984, Mexico’s Best Novel Award in 1985 for Of Love and Shadows, a German Author of the Year prize in 1986, and an American Critics’ Choice Award in 1996. Her work has been celebrated by major honors in more than a dozen countries, the range of awards reflecting her mixed popular and scholarly audience. She has also been awarded numerous honorary degrees from institutions including Bates College, Dominican College, New York State University, Florida Atlantic University, Columbia College Chicago, Lawrence University, Mills College, and Illinois Wesleyan University. Her version of Magical Realism has greatly influenced a new generation of experimental writers.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Some characters in Isabel Allende’s books value money and power over human dignity. What happens to these characters? Why?

Define Magical Realism. Discuss examples of Magical Realism in any Allende novel.

Define irony. Using any Allende novel, discuss practical examples of this literary technique.

How does love change the characters in Allende’s fiction? What does the pursuit of love make them do? What are the benefits and drawbacks of love in Allende’s books?

What causes political unrest in Allende’s novels? Are the...

(The entire section is 1,558 words.)