Isabel Allende - Refugees are people

Updated: Oct 22

Isabel Allende is undeniably one of the greatest authors of our time, with her books have sold more than 51 million copies worldwide. Having been born in Peru and having grown up in Chile, she is the first ever internationally successful female Latin American author. Some of her most famous works include The house of spirits, A long petal of the sea, and Eva Luna. In 2010, Allende was awarded the national prize for literature in Chile.⁣

Her works reclaim the rich history of Latin America through utilising historical motifs and magical realism, as well as heavily and consistently center the notion of identity in connection to displacement, understood to encompass social, geographical, linguistic, and cultural phenomena.⁣

This is because she is a refugee, as she was forced to leave Chile and flee to Venezuela in 1973 after the assassination of the Chilean president and her relative Salvador Allende. Much like her protagonists, Allende herself found her own identity through writing. In a recent interview regarding her book “A long petal of the sea,” which includes a fictionalized recount of the circumstances surrounding the Spanish civil war, she commented:⁣

“When you are a refugee you lose your nation, your tribe. Who would leave their home, everything that is familiar to them, to go to a place where they will be received with hostility, unless they are running away for their lives?”⁣

She then goes on to accentuate the importance of telling the stories of refugees as a crucial part of reinventing one’s identity and future in these new circumstances:⁣

“The whole theme of this book is that you should live with an open heart. The moment you tell a story someone becomes a person, and you can connect,” she said.⁣

“The hearts of the Spanish refugees were wounded by loss and separation, but their eyes were set firmly on the future,” she said.⁣

Her latest novel, “Violeta,” published in February of this year, tells the story of a 100-year-old woman, born in 1920, who has lived through many significant historical events, such as the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, and, eventually, not one, but two pandemics.


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