Friday, December 5, 2008

Isabel Allende - Latin America's Hot Mama Of Novelists

Isabel Allende is one of my favourite Latin American feminist icons.

This is a brief biography of her, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Isabel Allende Llona (born in Lima, Peru on August 2, 1942) is a Chilean-American novelist.

Allende, whose works fall under the "magic realist" tradition, is one of the most successful women novelists in Latin America.

She is famous for her contributions to Latin American literature, and her famous novels include The House of the Spirits (1982) and City of the Beasts (2002).

She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together.

She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at 10 US colleges.

Having adopted American citizenship in 2003, she currently resides in California.

Allende was born in Lima, Peru to diplomat Tomas Allende, the Chilean ambassador to Peru and Francisca Llona Barros.

Tomas Allende was the first cousin of Salvador Allende, the President of Chile from 1970 to 1973.

The young Isabel read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.

She married her fellow Chilean Miguel Frías in 1962, and became a TV presenter, dramatist and journalist.

They had 2 children.

From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Santiago and Belgium.

She also translated novels from English to Spanish.

When her uncle was ousted and executed by General Augusto Pinochet with US backing in 1973, Allende fled to Venezuela.

In 1988, she married American lawyer William Gordon. She became a US citizen in 2003.

She was one of the eight flag-bearers at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

In 2008, she became an honorary doctor of humane letters of the San Francisco State University.

Allende published two children's stories Grandmother Panchita and Lauchas y Lauchones.

She also worked in Chilean television production from 1970 to 1974.

As a journalist, she once sought an interview with Pablo Neruda, a notable Chilean poet.

Neruda declined, telling her 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.

In Allende's time in Venezuela, she was a freelance journalist for El Nacional in Caracas from 1976-1983 and an administrator of the Marrocco School in Caracas from 1979-1983.

In 1981, when Allende learned that her grandfather, aged 99, was on his deathbed, she started writing him a letter that later evolved into a book manuscript, The House of the Spirits.

The intent of this work was to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship.

The book was a great success; Allende was compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Colombia as an author of magical realism.

Allende's books have since became known for their vivid story-telling.

She writes using a computer, working Monday through Saturday, 9am to 7pm.

Allende's book Paula (1995) is a memoir of her childhood in Santiago, and her years in exile.

It was written in the form of a letter to her daughter Paula, who was terminally ill with cancer. Paula died in 1992.

The Los Angeles Times has called Isabel 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."

She is also the founder of the Isabel Allende Foundation, which is "dedicated to supporting programmes that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."

Allende's novels have been translated into 30 languages and sold more than 51 million copies.

There are four movies based on her novels - The House of the Spirits (with Meryl Streep), Aphrodite, Eva Luna and Gift for a Sweetheart.

Her latest book is a memoir, The Sum of Our Days.

It was published in 2008 and looks at her recent life with her immediate family, which includes her son Nicolas, second husband William Gordon and her grandchildren.