|A.K.A.||Isabel Allende Llona|
|Countries||United States of America Chile|
|Occupations||Writer Journalist Screenwriter Novelist Children's writer|
|Type||Film, Television, Stage, and Radio Journalism Literature|
|Birth||2 August 1942 (Lima)|
|Education||Liceo Javiera Carrera|
|Notable Works||The House of the Spirits, Zorro|
Isabel Allende (Spanish: [isaˈβel aˈʝende] ( listen); born August 2, 1942) is a Chilean writer. Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the genre of "magical realism", is famous for novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias, 2002), which have been commercially successful. Allende has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author." In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Allende's novels are often based upon her personal experience and historical events and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism. She has lectured and toured many U.S. colleges to teach literature. Fluent in English as a second language, Allende was granted United States citizenship in 1993, having lived in California since 1989, first with her U.S husband (from whom she is now separated).
Allende was born Isabel Allende Llona in Lima, Peru, the daughter of Francisca Llona Barros and Tomás Allende, who was at the time a second secretary at the Chilean embassy. Her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973; thus the former head of state is her first cousin once removed. Many sources cite Allende as being Salvador Allende's niece (without specifying that the relationship is that Tomas and Salvador are cousins); the confusion stems from Allende herself often referring to Salvador as her "uncle" (tío) in her private life and public interviews. This is because in Spanish a "first cousin once removed" is translated as "second degree uncle" (tío en segundo grado).
In 1945, after Tomás disappeared, Isabel's mother relocated with her three children to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953. Between 1953 and 1958, Allende's mother was married to Ramón Huidobro and moved often. Huidobro was a diplomat appointed to Bolivia and Beirut. In Bolivia, Allende attended an American private school; and in Beirut, Lebanon she attended an English private school. The family returned to Chile in 1958, where Allende was also briefly home-schooled. In her youth, she read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.
In 1970, Salvador Allende appointed Huidobro as ambassador to Argentina.
While living in Chile, Allende finished her secondary studies and met engineering student Miguel Frías whom she married in 1962. Reportedly, "Allende married early, into an Anglophile family and a kind of double life: at home she was the obedient wife and mother of two; in public she became, after a spell translating Barbara Cartland, a moderately well-known TV personality, a dramatist and a journalist on a feminist magazine."
From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, Chile, then in Brussels, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe. For a short time in Chile, she also had a job translating romance novels from English to Spanish. However, she was fired for making unauthorized changes to the dialogue of the heroines, to make them sound more intelligent, as well as altering the Cinderella ending to allow the heroines to find more independence and do good in the world.
Allende and Frías's daughter Paula was born in 1963. In 1966, Allende again returned to Chile and her son Nicolás was born there that year.
"The CIA-backed military coup in September 1973 (that brought Augusto Pinochet to power) changed everything" for Allende, because "her name meant she was caught up in finding safe passage for those on the wanted lists" (helping until her mother and stepfather, a diplomat in Argentina, narrowly escaped assassination). When she herself was added to the list and began receiving death threats, she fled to Venezuela, where she stayed for 13 years. In Venezuela she was a columnist for El Nacional, a major national newspaper. In 1978, she began a temporary separation from Miguel Frías. She lived in Spain for two months, then returned to her marriage.
During a visit to California in 1988, Allende met her second husband, attorney Willie Gordon. In 1994, she was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit, the first woman to receive this honor. Allende currently lives in San Rafael, California. Most of her family lives near her, with her son living "with his second wife and her grandchildren just down the hill; her son and his family live in the house she and her second husband, San Francisco lawyer and novelist William C. Gordon, vacated." She separated from Gordon in April 2015.
In 2006, she was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. She presented the talk Tales of Passion at TED 2007. In 2008, Allende received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University for her "distinguished contributions as a literary artist and humanitarian." In 2014, Allende received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Harvard University for her contributions to literature.
Allende started the Isabel Allende Foundation on December 9, 1996 in honor of her daughter, Paula Frías Allende, who fell into a coma after complications of the disease porphyria led to her hospitalization. Paula was 28 years old when she died in 1992. The foundation is "dedicated to supporting programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."
'In 1995, I created the Isabel Allende Foundation to support the empowerment of women and girls worldwide. For over 20 years, I have lectured internationally about women's rights and the empowerment of women; Latin American and world politics; Chile; writing and the creative process; spirituality; and my own work.'
Beginning in 1967, Allende was on the editorial staff of Paula magazine, and of the children's magazine Mampato from 1969 to 1974, where she later became the editor. She published two children's stories, "La Abuela Panchita" ("Grandmother Panchita") and "Lauchas y Lauchones", as well as a collection of articles, Civilice a Su Troglodita. She also worked in Chilean television production for channels 7 (humorous programs) and 13 from 1970 to 1974. As a journalist, she once sought an interview with Pablo Neruda, a notable Chilean poet. While Neruda agreed to the interview, he told her that she had too much imagination to be a journalist and should be a novelist instead. He also advised her to compile her satirical columns in book form. She did so, and this became her first published book. In 1973, Allende's play El Embajador played in Santiago, a few months before she was forced to flee the country due to the coup.
During her time in Venezuela, Allende was a freelance journalist for El Nacional in Caracas from 1976 to 1983 and an administrator of the Marrocco School in Caracas from 1979 to 1983.
In 1981, while in Caracas, Allende received a phone call informing her that her 99-year-old grandfather was near death, and she sat down to write him a letter, hoping to thereby "keep him alive, at least in spirit." The letter evolved into a book, The House of the Spirits (1982); the intent of this work was to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship. The book was rejected by numerous Latin American publishers, but finally published in Buenos Aires. The book soon ran to more than two dozen editions in Spanish, and was translated into a score of languages. The book was a great success; Allende was compared to Gabriel García Márquez, as an author in the style known as magical realism.
Allende's books are known for their vivid storytelling. Although Allende is often cited as a practitioner of magical realism, her works also display elements of post-Boom literature, and, as such, her style cannot be described as pure magical realism. Allende also holds to a very strict writing routine. She writes on a computer, working Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. "I always start on January 8," Allende has stated; "a tradition she began in 1981 with the letter she wrote to her dying grandfather that would become The House of the Spirits."
Allende's book Paula (1995) is a memoir of her childhood in Santiago, Chile and the years she spent in exile. It is written as an anguished letter to her daughter, who suffered from porphyria—a metabolic disorder that is rarely fatal. In 1991, an error in Paula's medication resulted in severe brain damage, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state. But Allende spent months at Paula's bedside before learning that a hospital mishap had caused irreversible brain damage. Allende had Paula moved to a hospital in California where she died on December 6, 1992. The book, as much a celebration of Allende's turbulent life as a chronicle of Paula's death, was a best seller in the United States, Latin America and Europe.
Allende's novels have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than 56 million copies. There are three movies based on her novels currently in production—Aphrodite, Eva Luna and Gift for a Sweetheart. Her 2008 book, The Sum of Our Days, is a memoir. It focuses on her recent life with her family, which includes her grown son, Nicolás; second husband, William Gordon; and several grandchildren. A novel set in New Orleans, Island Beneath the Sea, was published in 2010. In 2011 came El cuaderno de Maya (Maya's Notebook), in which the setting alternates between Berkeley, California, and Chiloé in Chile, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada.
Allende has won numerous awards in Chile and around the world, (see below), and recently was called a "literary legend" by Latino Leaders Magazine, which in its 2007 article named Allende the third most influential Latino leader in the world.
Despite commercial success, her literature has drawn some negative criticism. In her novel Yo-Yo Boing, Giannina Braschi declared that "Isabel Allende is killing García Márquez a little more each day the same way Michael Jackson's sisters are killing Michael Jackson." In an article published in Entre paréntesis, Roberto Bolaño called Allende's literature anemic, comparing it to "a person on his deathbed," and later called her "a writing machine, not a writer". Literary critic Harold Bloom adds his opinion that Allende only "reflects a determinate period, and that afterwards everybody will have forgotten her". Novelist Gonzalo Contreras says that "she commits a grave error, to confuse commercial success with literary quality".
Allende said to El Clarín that she recognizes that she has not always received good reviews in Chile, stating that Chilean intellectuals "detest" her. However, she disagrees with these assessments, and has been quoted saying:
The fact people think that when you sell a lot of books you are not a serious writer is a great insult to the readership. I get a little angry when people try to say such a thing. There was a review of my last book in one American paper by a professor of Latin American studies and he attacked me personally for the sole reason that I sold a lot of books. That is unforgivable.
Amongst her more positive reviews, it has been said "Allende's impact on Latin American and world literature cannot be overestimated." The Los Angeles Times has called Allende "a genius," and she has received many international awards, including the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, granted to writers "who have contributed to the beauty of the world."
- Novel of the Year (Chile, 1983)
- Panorama Literario (Chile, 1983)
- Author of the Year (Germany, 1984)
- Book of the Year (Germany, 1984)
- Grand Prix d'Evasion (France, 1984)
- Grand Prix de la Radio Télévision Belge (Point de Mire, 1985)
- Best Novel (Mexico, 1985)
- Colima Literary Prize (Mexico, 1986)
- Quality Paperback Book Club New Voice (United States; 1986 nominee)
- Author of the Year (Germany, 1986)
- XV Premio Internazionale I Migliori Dell'Anno (Italy, 1987)
- Premio Mulheres a la Mejor Novela Extranjera (Portugal, 1987)
- Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee (United States, 1987)
- Library Journal's Best Book (United States, 1988)
- Before Columbus Foundation Award (United States, 1989)
- Orden al Mérito Docente y Cultural Gabriela Mistral (Chile, 1990)
- XLI Bancarella Literary Prize (Italy, 1993)
- Independent Foreign Fiction Award (England, June–July 1993)
- Brandeis University Major Book Collection Award (United States, 1993)
- Feminist of the Year Award, The Feminist; Majority Foundation (United States, 1994)
- Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres distinction (France, 1994)
- Critics' Choice (United States, 1996)
- Books to Remember, American Library Assoc. (United States, 1996)
- Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature (United States, 1996).
- Malaparte Amici di Capri (Italy, 1998)
- Donna Citta Di Roma (Italy, 1998)
- Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (United States, 1998)
- Sara Lee Foundation (United States, 1998)
- Premio Iberoamericano de Letras José Donoso, University of Talca (Chile, 2003)
- Premio Honoris Causa, Università di Trento en "lingue e letteratura moderne euroamericane" (Trento, Italy, May 2007)
- Chilean National Prize for Literature (Chile, 2010)
- Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction (USA, 2010)
- Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award (Denmark, 2012)
- Presidential Medal of Freedom (United States, 2014)
- Anisfield-Wolf Book Award: Lifetime Achievement (United States, 2017)
- The House of the Spirits (1982) La casa de los espíritus
- The Porcelain Fat Lady (1984) La gorda de porcelana
- Of Love and Shadows (1985) De amor y de sombra
- Eva Luna (1987) Eva Luna
- Two Words (1989) Dos Palabras
- The Stories of Eva Luna (1989) Cuentos de Eva Luna
- The Infinite Plan (1991) El plan infinito
- Daughter of Fortune (1999) Hija de la fortuna
- Portrait in Sepia (2000) Retrato en sepia
- City of the Beasts (2002) La ciudad de las bestias
- Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004) El reino del dragón de oro
- Zorro (2005) El Zorro: Comienza la leyenda
- Forest of the Pygmies (2005) El bosque de los pigmeos
- Ines of My Soul (2006) Inés del alma mía
- Island Beneath the Sea (2010) La isla bajo el mar
- Maya's Notebook (2011) El Cuaderno de Maya
- Ripper (2014) El juego de Ripper
- The Japanese Lover (2015) El amante japonés
- In the Midst of Winter (2017) Más allá del invierno ISBN 1501178156
- Paula (1994) Paula ISBN 0060927216
- Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (1998) Afrodita
- My Invented Country: A Memoir (2003) Mi país inventado
- The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir (2008) La suma de los días
- "Afterword", Tales of Zorro, edited by Richard Dean Starr, Moonstone Books, 2008
- Santiago Files, 2011 (Interviewee)