Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1451
Isabel Allende (1942–)
Isabel Angelica Allende was born on August 2, 1942, in Lima, Peru, the daughter of a Chilean diplomat, Tomas, and his wife, Francisca. They later moved to Chile, where Isabel attended a private school. Afterwards, she worked for a United Nations development organization before becoming a journalist in Santiago. Allende’s most notable family member was her uncle, the Chilean president Salvador Allende, who was assassinated in 1973 as part of a military coup. This event heavily influenced Allende, who commented in an interview later that she divided her life before and after the day of her uncle’s assassination. Her first novel, La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits), published in 1982, won a number of international awards in Mexico, Germany, France, and Belgium. In the mid-1980s, Allende moved to the United States where she has taught creative writing at various universities. In 1985, an English translation of her first novel, The House of the Spirits, was published by Knopf. Since then, she has written a number of other well-known novels, including De amor y de sombra (Of Love and Shadows), translated in 1987, Eva Luna, translated in 1988, which won a number of national book awards including the Before Columbus Foundation award, the Freedom to Write Pen Club Award in 1991, and the Brandeis University Major Book Collection Award in 1993. Allende’s most recent novels include Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (1999) and Portrait in Sepia (2001).
Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899–1974)
Born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on October 19, 1899, Asturias was the son of a supreme court magistrate, Ernesto, who later became an importer, and his wife, Maria Asturias. He became a lawyer in 1923 and left Guatemala for political reasons, residing in Paris and studying the history of ancient Mesoamerican cultures at the Sorbonne in Paris from 1923 to 1928. In Paris, he associated with members of the surrealist movement, such as Andre Breton and Paul Valery. His exposure to Surrealism as well as his intellectual and political interests in Central American indigenous cultures would later influence his own writing. Returning to Guatemala in 1933, Asturias worked as a journalist, publishing books of poetry in small presses. In 1942, he was elected deputy to the Guatemalan congress and later became a diplomat under Jose Arevalo’s presidency. In 1946, he published his first novel, El señor presidente, translated in English as Mr. President, which garnered praise from both South and North American critics. His next novel, Los hombres de maize (Men of Maize), published in Spanish in 1949, was not as highly praised but has come to be viewed as his masterpiece. In 1954, Asturias was exiled again due to the establishment of another repressive Guatemalan regime. He worked as a journalist in South America and later returned in 1966, becoming the French ambassador under Carlos Montenegro’s moderate government. He was awarded the 1967 Nobel Prize for literature for his commitment to writing about the injustice and oppression of Guatemalan people, particularly working class and peasants. He died on June 9, 1974, in Madrid, Spain.
Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986)
Born on August 24, 1899, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jorge Luis Borges was the son of a lawyer and a translator. He was born of mixed European and Spanish-American heritage and was educated in Switzerland, England, and Argentina. In 1919, the Borges family moved to Spain. However, young Borges moved back in 1921 and began to write poetry and essays for literary journals. He also cofounded a number of magazines before publishing his first book of poetry in 1923. His current reputation is based more on his short stories than his poetry, and it was the publication of Historia universal de la infamia ( A Universal History of In- famy) in 1935 that heralded his career as a wellknown writer of a hybrid genre that was part fiction, part essay. In 1941, his magic realist tales El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths) were published, and a few years later, it was followed by Ficciones, 1935–1944 (Fictions, 1935–1944) and El Aleph (The Aleph). For many years, he worked as a municipal librarian in Buenos Aires, as well as a teacher. In 1955, he was appointed director of the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) where he served until 1970. By the late 1950s, he was completely blind but continued to publish in a variety of genres: poetry, essays, and stories. Borges died of liver cancer on June 14, 1986, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980)
Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier y Valmont was born on December 26, 1904, in Havana, Cuba, to a Russian mother and a French father. He attended the Universidad de Havana until dropping out due to economic circumstances. For many years afterward, he worked as a journalist, editor, educator, musicologist, and author. Involved in revolutionary activities against the dictator Gerardo Machado y Morales, Carpentier was forced to leave Cuba after he had been imprisoned and subsequently blacklisted. He lived in France for many years, publishing his first novel in 1933, Ecue-yamba-o!, which faded quickly into obscurity. In 1939, Carpentier returned to Cuba, where he began to write fiction again. This time, with the publication of novels such as El reino de este mundo (The Kingdom of This World) in 1949, Los pasos perdido (The Lost Steps), and El Acoso (Manhunt in Noonday), Carpentier became an established and world-renowned writer. He continued to write short stories, novels, essays, and criticism until his death, from cancer, in Paris, France, on April 24, 1980, where he served as Cuba’s cultural attache.
Laura Esquivel (1951–)
Born in Mexico in 1951, Laura Esquivel began her writing career as a screenwriter. Married to the Mexican director Alfonso Arau, Esquivel wrote a screenplay for a 1985 film, Chido One, that he directed. They continued to collaborate on projects, culminating in Arau’s directing of Esquivel’s first novel, Like Water for Chocolate. Published in Mexico in 1989 as Como agua para chocolate, the book became a best-seller and was soon translated into numerous languages, including an English translation in 1993. The film’s release in the United States brought record-breaking attendance to a foreign film. Subsequently, Esquivel has published The Law of Love and Swift as Desire, in 2001, and a book of autobiographical writings, Between Two Fires: Intimate Writings on Life, Love, Food & Flavor. She currently lives in Mexico City.
Carlos Fuentes (1928–)
Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes was born in Panama City, Panama, on November 11, 1928. The son of a Mexican diplomat, from an early age, Fuentes was exposed to a number of South-American literary giants, such as the Brazilian poet Alfonso Reyes and the Chilean novelist Jose Donoso. He attended Henry D. Cooke, a public school in Washington, D.C., where he learned to speak English. He later went on to study in Geneva, Switzerland, and followed up by receiving a law degree from the National University of Mexico. Fuentes has written a number of influential and deeply provocative novels that interrogate the notion of Mexican identity. In 1958, he published his first novel, La región más transparente (Where the Air Is Clear), translated in 1964 to international acclaim. With the publication of La muerte de Artemio Cruz (The Death of Artemio Cruz), translated in 1964; Aura, translated in 1968; Terra Nostra, translated in 1976; and Gringo Viejo (The Old Gringo), translated in 1985, Fuentes is currently seen as Mexico’s premier author, winning a host of literary prizes in Spanish-speaking countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Chile, as well as making the New York Times best-seller list for The Old Gringo. He currently lives in London, England.
Gabriel García Márquez (1928–)
Born in Aracataca, Colombia, on March 6, 1928, Gabriel García Márquez is South America’s most renowned author. Many of García Márquez’s novels are set in a mythical town based on the town of Aracataca where he was raised by his maternal grandparents. For many years, García Márquez worked as a journalist, first in Colombia, then later in Paris, London, and Caracas, Venezuela until pursuing his writing career full-time in the 1960s. In 1967, García Márquez published his most famous novel Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), translated in 1970. The publication put Latin-American fiction on the world’s literary map, particularly those works related to the movement known as Magic Realism. Although primarily known as a fiction writer of novels such as El otoño del patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch) and El Amor en el tiempo de colera (Love in the Time of Cholera) and short story collections El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel), García Márquez continues to produce reportage for both Spanish- and English-speaking periodicals. In 1982, he won the Nobel Prize for literature. He has also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction in 1988 for Love in the Time of Cholera. He currently lives in Mexico City.
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