ISABEL ALLENDE Biography - Writers


Biography » writers » isabel allende

Name: Isabel Allende                                                                     
Born: 2 August 1942 Lima, Peru                                                           
Isabel Allende Llona, (born 2 August 1942), is a Chilean novelist. Allende, who         
writes in the "magic realism" tradition, is considered one of the first                 
successful women novelists in Latin America. She is largely famous for her               
contributions to Latin-American literature, novels such as The House of the             
Spirits (1982) and City of the Beasts (2002), which have been hugely successful.         
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 several US colleges.         
She currently resides in California along with her husband, having adopted               
American citizenship in 2003.                                                           
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 (with             
Isabel thus being first cousin, once removed) of Salvador Allende,                       
the President of Chile from 1970 to 1973. It is important to note that many             
sources also cite Isabel as Salvador Allende's niece, although most, if not all         
of these sources, do not state the relationship between Salvador and Tomas. The         
reason for this is that in Spanish, the words "tio" and "tia" refer equally to           
the siblings of one's parents as to the cousins of one's parents. So, in Spanish,       
Isabel Allende is, indeed, the niece of Salvador Allende, but in English, she is         
not his niece, but rather his first cousin once removed. In 1945, after                 
Tomas's "disappearance", Isabel's mother relocated with their three children             
to Chile, where they lived until 1953, moving briefly to Bolivia, then Lebanon.         
The family returned to Chile in 1958 so that Allende could complete her                 
secondary education.                                                                     
Allende attended a number of private schools in Lebanon and Chile and was also           
briefly home-schooled. The young Isabel also read widely, particularly the works         
of William Shakespeare. In Chile she met her first husband 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         
From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture         
Organization in Santiago, then later in Brussels, Belgium, and elsewhere in             
Europe. For a brief while 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 endings to let the heroines find more                   
independence and do good in the world. Her daughter Paula was born in 1963. In           
1966, Allende returned to Chile, and her son Nicolas was born there that year.           
Reportedly, "the CIA-backed military coup in [September of] 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.                     
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. In 2003, Allende obtained United States               
citizenship and currently lives in San Francisco. Most of her family lives near         
her with her son living "with his second wife and her grandchildren just down           
the hill; her son-in-law and his family live in the house she and her second             
husband, San Francisco lawyer and novelist William Gordon, vacated."                     
In 2006, she was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the           
Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.                                                         
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. 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 programes) and 13 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 due to the coup.                                                             
In Allende's time in Venezuela, she was a freelance journalist for El Nacional           
in Caracas from 1976-83 and an administrator of the Marrocco School in Caracas           
from 1979-83.                                                                           
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 magical realism.           
Allende's books have since became known for their vivid storytelling. Allende's         
trademark is the use of emotive words and phrases and, of course, the style of           
Magical realism. Isabel also holds to a very methodical, some would say menacing,       
literary routine. 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."         
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.                                         
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 (she died of porphyria in 1992).                       
Reportedly, "Allende's impact on not only Latin American literature but also on         
world literature cannot be underestimated." 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 programs that           
promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be                 
empowered and protected." 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.                       
She has three movies of her books currently in production--Aphrodite, Eva Luna           
and Gift for a Sweetheart. Her next book is a memoir, The Sum of Our Days. It           
comes out in the U.S. next year and looks at her recent life with her immediate         
family, which includes her grown son, Nicolas; second husband, William Gordon;           
and several grandchildren.