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Isabel Allende


Isabel Allende (born August 2, 1942) is a Chilean writer. Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the genre magical realism, is known 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."1 In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters,2 and in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize.3 President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.4

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.

Allende's style is associated with Magic realism, an artistic genre in which magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even "normal" setting. The characters' reactions to the "inexplicable" is key to the definition of magic realism: inexplicable phenomena occur in extremely mundane circumstances and the character(s) tend to not respond adequately (or at all) to the supernatural or magic nature of the event. On the contrary, they often treat the magical event as an annoyance, a setback, or an unwanted obligation. This blasé response to the supernatural is what distinguishes magic realism from other more traditional representations of magical phenomena in narrative fiction. It is also what gives magic realism its characteristically ironic and humorous quality.


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 1973.567

In 1945, after Tomás disappeared,5 Isabel's mother relocated with her three children to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953.89 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.9

While living in Chile, Allende finished her secondary studies and met engineering student Miguel Frías whom she married in 1962.9 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."5

From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, then in Brussels, and elsewhere in Europe. For a short time in Chile, she also had a job translating romance novels from English to Spanish.10 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.11

Allende and Frías's daughter Paula was born in 1963. In 1966, Allende again returned to Chile, where her son Nicolás was born that year.

Exile In Venezuela

In 1973, Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.12 Isabel found herself arranging safe passage for people on the "wanted lists", which she continued to do until her mother and stepfather 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.513 It was during this time that Allende wrote her debut novel The House of the Spirits (1982). Allende has stated that her move from Chile made her a serious writer: "I don't think I would be a writer if I had stayed in Chile. I would be trapped in the chores, in the family, in the person that people expected me to be." Allende believed that, being female in a patriarchal family, she was not expected to be a "liberated" person.12 Her history of oppression and liberation is thematically found in much of her fiction, where women contest the ideals of patriarchal leaders.14 In Venezuela she was a columnist for El Nacional, a major national newspaper.15 In 1978, she began a temporary separation from Miguel Frías. She lived in Spain for two months, then returned to her marriage.16

Later life

She divorced her first husband, Miguel Frias, in 1987. During a visit to California on a book tour in 1988, Allende met her second husband, attorney Willie Gordon. They married in July 1988.17 In 1994, she was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit, the first woman to receive this honor. Allende resides in San Rafael, California. Most of her family lives nearby, with her son, his second wife, and her grandchildren just down the hill, in the house she and her second husband, San Francisco lawyer and novelist William C. Gordon, vacated.5 She separated from Gordon in April 2015.18

In 2006, she was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.19 She presented the talk Tales of Passion at TED 2007.19 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."20 In 2014, Allende received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Harvard University for her contributions to literature.

Literary career

Isabel Allende (in red), 2007, California

Beginning in 1967, Allende was on the editorial staff for Paula magazine, and from 1969 to 1974 for the children's magazine Mampato, where she later was the editor.21 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 1974.21 As a journalist, she once sought an interview with Pablo Neruda, the 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 due to the coup.

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 1979-1983.21

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 (1982); 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 as an author of the style known as magic realism.

Allende's books have since became known for their vivid storytelling. Allende's trademark is the use of emotive words and phrases. Isabel also holds to a very methodical, some would say menacing, literary routine.22 She writes using a computer, working Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. "I always start on January 8," Allende stated; "a tradition she began in 1981 with a letter she wrote to her dying grandfather that would become the groundwork for her first novel, The House of the Spirits."23 Allende is also quoted as saying:

In January 8, 1981, I was living in Venezuela and I received a phone call that my beloved grandfather was dying. I began a letter for him that later became my first novel, The House of The Spirits. It was such a lucky book from the very beginning, that I kept that lucky date to start.24

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 lay in a coma in the hospital in Spain. Paula suffered from a blood disease porphyria and during a crisis she fell into a coma then vegetative state due to a medication error while the hospital she was in was on strike. She was severely brain damaged and her mother took her to California where she died a year later in 1992.

Allende's novels have been translated into more than 30 languages and sold more than 56 million copies.2526 Her 2008 book, The Sum of Our Days, is a memoir. It focuses on her life with her family, which includes her grown son, Nicolás; second husband, William Gordon; and several grandchildren.25 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.


She is the founder of the Isabel Allende Foundation. She has been recently called a "literary legend" by Latino Leaders magazine, which named Allende as third most influential Latino leader in the world in their 2007 article. Allende's novels have been translated into 30 languages and sold more than 51 million copies.25


  • The House of the Spirits (1982) La casa de los espiritus
  • The Porcelain Fat Lady (1984) La gorda de porcelana
  • Of Love and Shadows (1985) De amor y de sombra
  • Eva Luna (1987)
  • The Stories of Eva Luna (1989) Cuentos de Eva Luna
  • The Infinite Plan (1991) El plan infinito
  • Paula: A Memoir (P.S. (1995) first nonfiction memoir
  • Aphrodite: A memoir of the senses (1998) Afrodita
  • 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
  • My Invented Country (2003) Mi país inventado
  • Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004) El reino del dragón del oro
  • Forest of the Pygmies (2005) El bosque de los pigmeos
  • Zorro (2005) El Zorro
  • Ines of My Soul (2006) Inés de mi alma historical fiction set in sixteenth century
  • The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir (2008) La suma de los días
  • 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 150117815627
  • Long Petal of the Sea (2019) Largo pétalo de mar

Other Contributions

"Afterword," Tales of Zorro, edited by Richard Dean Starr, Moonstone Books, (2008)


  1. ↑ Isabel Allende Named to Council of Cervantes Institute Latin American Herald Tribune, October 23, 2009. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  2. ↑ American Academy of Arts and Letters - Current Members. Artsandletters.org. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  3. ↑ Isabel Allende gana el Premio Nacional de Literatura tras intenso lobby | Cultura. La Tercera (1990-01-01). Archived from the original on 28 July 2013. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  4. ↑ President Obama Announces the Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients. The White House (10 November 2014). Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Review: The undefeated: A life in writing: Often compared to Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende is more interested in telling stories about her own life, her difficult upbringing, marriage, and her daughter's death. Aida Edemariam. The Guardian (London) - Final Edition. GUARDIAN REVIEW PAGES; Pg. 11. 28 April 2007 Isabel Allende website
  6. ↑ Shirley Christian, Santiago Journal; Allende's Widow Meditates Anew on a Day in '73, The New York Times. Section A; Page 4, Column 3; Foreign Atlas. 5 June 1990
  7. ↑ Veronica Ross, Sewing didn't cut it for Inés, Guelph Mercury (Ontario, Canada). BOOKS; Pg. C5. 3 March 2007
  8. ↑ Mirta Ojito, A Writer's Heartbeats Answer Two Calls. 28 July 2003. The New York Times The article notes that Allende has been told that her father left them and that due to Chile's anti-divorce laws, Allende's mother couldn't divorce Tomás. Her mother, 83 when the article was published, and her stepfather, 87 at the time, have lived together for 57 years, but they are still not recognized in Chile as married.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Isabel Allende -. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  10. Isabel Allende: A Critical Companion. Karen Castellucci Cox; Greenwood Press, 2003. 184 pgs. p. 2-4.
  11. ↑ Alexandra Alter, Isabel Allende on Superstition and Memory. The Wall Street Journal, p. W4, 23 April 2010. "… she often changed the dialogue and endings to make the heroines seem smarter."
  12. 12.0 12.1 (2018) The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 1133-1141.
  13. A Writer's Heartbeats Answer Two Calls. The New York Times. 28 July 2003 The New York Times article notes that she left Chile in 1975.
  14. ↑ Dulfano, Isabel (October 2013). A Response to Isabel Allende's Tanner Humanities Center Human Values Speech. Women's Studies 42 (7): 816-826.
  15. ↑ Isabel Allende: "mis mejores amigos son venezolanos". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  16. ↑ Isabel Allende -. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  17. ↑ Isabel Allende - Timeline.
  18. ↑ Walker, Tim, "Isabel Allende, The Japanese Lover: 'Fiction comes from the womb, not the brain' - book review", The Independent, 15 November 2015.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Isabel Allende. TEDtalks: Isabel Allende Tells Tales of Passion. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  20. ↑ San Francisco State University 2008 Commencement Program
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Life at a glance. The Guardian (London). Guardian Saturday Pages; 6. February 5, 2000.
  22. LATIN AMERICA'S SCHEHERAZADE; Drawing on dreams, myths, and memories, Chilean novelist Isabel Allende weaves fantastical tales in which reality and the absurd intersect. Fernando Gonzalez. The Boston Globe MAGAZINE; 14. April 25, 1993.
  23. Allende, heroine 'Ines' are kindred spirits. Javier Erik Olvera. Inside Bay Area (California). BAY AREA LIVING; Home and Garden. November 25, 2006.
  24. ↑ Isabel Allende Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 This old "House" opened a lot of doors for author Allende; Theater preview. Misha Berson. The Seattle Times ROP ZONE; Ticket; Pg. H44. 1 June 2007
  26. Wall Street Journal p. W4, 23 April 2010
  27. In the Midst of Winter


  • Bautista Gutierrez, Gloria and Norma Corrales-Martin. Pinceladas literarias hispanoamericanas. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2004. ISBN 9780471297475
  • Berson, Misha. "This old 'House' opened a lot of doors for author Allende"; Theater preview The Seattle Times ROP ZONE; Ticket H44, June 1, 2007. ISSN 0745-9696
  • Main, Mary. Isabel Allende, Award-Winning Latin American Author. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Pub., 2005. ISBN 9780766024885

External links

All links retrieved March 6, 2018.

  • Isabel Allende's Official Website
  • Isabel Allende's IMDb Site
  • Guardian Books "Author Page", with profile and links to further articles.
  • Isabel Allende at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Memories, Fight and Fantasy at the Hand of the Great Superhero of the Spanish Narrative - Isabel Allende in a 2006 interview
  • Isabel Allende's talk at TED filmed in March 2007