Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean writer whose work has been translated into thirty-five languages. With more than seventy million books sold, it is considered the most widely read living writer of the Spanish language in the world. She is also the daughter of the diplomat Tomás Allende Pesce, cousin of the former president of Chile, Salvador Allende, who was overthrown by the military coup of September 11, 1973.
Through her writing, Isabel Allende revealed the sublime beauty contained in the feminine and magically invoked these qualities, usually repressed, latent, of her readers. In times of enormous political turmoil, she chose a literary activism against the patriarchal ideological guidelines and gave women an extensive manifesto towards their personal awakening.
With an exquisite sensitivity, Isabel Allende has been able to transmit an unconditional love for beauty, for the beauty of the world and of people. Reading it or listening to it is an act that, in itself, elevates the spirit.
A woman committed to making this a better place. A pen activist whose weapons are love and beauty. Today we go through her life and part of his work in what is intended to be a small tribute to this great woman who has given us so much.
Her early years
She was born in Lima, Peru, where she lived during the time her father worked as a diplomat. It was as a result of the separation of their parents, when Isabel returned to Chile with her mother and her brothers. For a while, they lived in the house of their maternal grandfather. An authoritarian figure who influenced Isabel in some very important aspects of her life. After finishing her studies, she married her first husband, Miguel Frías, who was the father of her two children: Paula and Nicolás.
In 1967, Isabel became the editor of the magazine for women, Paula. Her articles, which focused on the role of women in Chilean society, were hilariously ironic and, therefore, generated a lot of controversy. This was a time of great changes in Chile, characterized by modernity and the liberation movement of women within a Catholic, conservative and patriarchal society.
“There was a time when it was not considered sexy to be a feminist. The patriarchy was very skilled in creating the stereotype of the feminist woman who does not shave.”
Her career and exile
It was after the military coup that Isabel Allende was forced to go into exile in Venezuela, where she stayed for thirteen years working in a newspaper and a school. During her stay in Venezuela, he received the news of her grandfather’s very serious health condition.
Unable to return to Chile to be by her side, Isabel began to write a letter that would end up becoming an unprecedented literary success for a Latin American woman: The House of Spirits. In 1993, this work would also be brought to the screen by Bille August with great success.
After the success of his first novel, Isabel Allende would write two more books that supposed, again, an absolute success in the world of the letters: Of love and shadows and Stories of Eva Luna. Shortly after the publication of her third novel, Isabel decided to leave her job at school and dedicate herself entirely to writing.
After the divorce of her first husband, Isabel married William Gordon, an American lawyer, and moved to the United States, where she has lived since 1988.
The death of her daughter Paula and the awakening to life
In 1992, her daughter Paula died tragically at the age of 28 years in a hospital in Madrid. This fact deeply affected Isabel, plunging her into a state of deep sadness and despair that cost her a good time to leave. During this long and painful period, Isabel wrote the novel Paula, a reflection of the childhood and youth of her beloved daughter. A tribute of love towards her daughter that was consolidated as another authentic best seller in which many women were recognized.
Paula is a novel that, like The House of the Spirits, began as a letter, a declaration of love and, at the same time, a journey towards accepting the death of her daughter. The writing began in the hospital, next to his daughter and seeing how it gradually faded. What Paula really means is not just a letter to her daughter, but an autobiographical account in which the author tells the story of her family.
Allende undressed his soul in this novel. On many occasions, Isabel Allende has commented on the healing power of writing to face the great dramas of life. And, in Paula, we perceive how the author herself accepts the circumstances and the death of her daughter. A novel that, in a way, was a therapeutic exercise and awareness of reality.
With the money raised from Paula’s sales, she created the Isabel Allende Foundation as a tribute to her daughter, who had worked as a social educator and psychologist in marginal communities in Venezuela and Spain.
Four years later, overcoming her deep depression, Isabel wrote Aphrodite. This book became a song to the fact of being alive and in a jouissance of the senses. It is considered a song of life dedicated to gratitude and sensuality, written with the same sensitivity found in all his previous works.
The beautiful reflection of the feminine
All of Isabel Allende’s work reminds us of Dante’s beloved muse, Beatrice (Bice), who consolidated the stereotype of the “screen woman” so idealized from the masculine. The lady who, by the mere fact of existing, improves the beloved. Women who return the reflection of those who love them. The “great other” through whom one connects with one’s own divine nature. The source behind the mirror where creativity, inspiration and the best aspects of oneself emanate, elevating it beyond human potential. The “Mirror Woman”, that’s how Dante saw his Beatrice.
In a personal and professional way, Isabel Allende has been able to transmute that traditional archetype of “screen ladies” that we learned from Dante and has created, with her literature, a new mirror where women are reflected, recognized and fall in love with themselves
Throughout the work of Isabel Allende, we find an infinity of women protagonists, different women and of diverse origin, as it happens in reality. Thus, we have, for example, The City of Beasts, a work in which, although the woman is not the main protagonist, she does have a fundamental role. To this we must add that the woman in The City of Beasts is of advanced age and, still, nothing stops her.
Another significant feature of the Chilean writer is her reflection of Latin America. Of their customs, traditions, existing duality and indigenous tribes. Isabel claims the beauty of people and the world in every corner, in any society however remote it may be.
“Maybe we are in this world to seek love, find it and lose it, over and over again. With each love, we are born again, and with each love that ends we pick up a new wound. I’m covered in proud scars.”