Isabel Allende’s Tales of Passion

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The opening ceremony of the 2006 winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, saw 8 women from different parts of the world represent their different regions. The Latin American contingent was represented by Isabel Allende, a Chilean American writer, journalist and teacher. Even though Allende jokes that it was this ceremony which truly brought her mainstream fame, it is her ability as a storyteller that has left a profound mark on those who have been exposed to her works.

Born in 1942 in Lima, Peru, Allende was the daughter of Tomás Allende, first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973. Upon her father’s disappearance in 1945, Isabel relocated with her mother to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953. Allende’s mother remarried a diplomat, who was subsequently posted to Bolivia and Lebanon, where Allende attended private schools, further broadening her already broadened worldview that had been marked by upheaval. She returned to Chile in 1958 and began her career as a writer and journalist.     

1973 brought further upheaval for Allende, with a CIA-backed military coup bringing Augusto Pinochet to power. Having family ties to Salvador Allende, Isabel initially helped her immediate family find safe passage out of harm’s way, and when her name appeared on the wanted list, she fled to Venezuela. She stayed for 13 years, working as a columnist for El Nacional, a major national newspaper. She subsequently moved to America in 1989, where she has lived ever since.

Allende is a strong believer in diverse personal experiences providing the substance for unique stories. On the heels of this, Allende has written 23 books, which have been translated into 35 languages, having sold 70 million copies worldwide. Her works have been adapted into movies, plays, musicals, operas, ballets, and radio programs.

Her 1982 debut novel ‘The House of Spirits’ is a partially autobiographical drama about the upper-middle class family Trueba, which suffers under the thumb of violent patriarch Esteban Trueba. Other Mega best-sellers include ‘Inés of My Soul’, ‘City of the Beasts’, and ‘Paula’, a memoir about her daughter who died in 1992 after a porphyria-induced coma. Globally, Allende is considered one of the foremost Spanish-language authors of her time.

How has your experience as a TCK affected your ability to sow narratives which inspire people from different cultural backgrounds to reimagine our shared humanity?

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