Isabel Allende - Interview
They want a connection with a man the way Paula was connected to her husband. .. who is based on my husband, Willie Gordon, I got to know him much better. At 70, Isabel Allende reflects on cross-generational bonds, the tragedies of lives with her second husband, lawyer Willie Gordon, in San Rafael, Calif., Q: The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is an. In , after 27 years of marriage, Isabel Allende separated from her second husband, the attorney and writer Willie Gordon and moved into a small house What I also learned is that you have to work on the relationship all.
It evolved into my first book, The House of the Spirits, which became a best seller. Seven years later while on a book tour, I met an American lawyer, Willie Gordon. I didn't immediately think he was "the one" - I just wanted to have sex with him, and so we had a fling. When I returned to Venezuela I kept thinking about him and Nicolas suggested I spend a week with him to get him out of my system, and so I arrived unannounced at his California home.
After seven days I said we should get married and if it didn't work out we could get divorced. As Willie had been divorced twice, he said he needed time to think. I gave him an ultimatum of midday the next day and at We have been together 22 years. Willie is very strong and present and I know that I cannot push him around without consequences, which is good for a person like me, as I can be overwhelming.
He is now retired but still does pro-bono work. Our marriage thrives because he is a great wife. The dog wakes us at 6. He then takes care of me for the rest of the day. I spend hours writing, but without the infrastructure he provides I wouldn't be able to do it.
In my daughter Paula became gravely ill. She was hospitalised and lapsed into a coma [due to a rare genetic disease]. I moved her from a Madrid hospital to our California home.
I remember one day walking into Paula's room and Nicolas was changing her diaper and talking to her. His relationship with the body that was his sister taught me about real love; that it's about acceptance and taking care. After Paula died inmy relationship with Nicolas changed and we became closer. We now live three blocks apart and see each other every day. If we don't see each other, Nicolas phones. As a feminist, I don't want men and women to be equal. I want to have the same rights, the same freedom, as a man.
But I don't want to be like a man. I mean, my God, what would I do with a penis? I get letters from doctors who feel that they will never be able to see their patients in the way they did before reading the book, and from young people who identify with Paula and think for the first time about their own mortality.
Many of the letters are from very young women who never have had a real loss but who feel they don't have a sense of family or support in their communities. They feel very lonely.
They want a connection with a man the way Paula was connected to her husband. I receive letters from mothers who have lost children and think that they will die of sorrow. But one doesn't die.
Who is Isabel Allende dating? Isabel Allende boyfriend, husband
The death of a child is the oldest sorrow of women. Mothers have lost children for millennia. It is only a privileged few who can expect all of their children to live. Many reviewers regard Paula as your greatest book.
Would you say that writing about Paula affected you more deeply than all the other books? Yes, all the rest was rehearsal. And when I finished Paula I found it very difficult to write again. What could I possibly write about that would be as significant to me? Do you think that a writer chooses what to write or that the writing chooses you?
I think that the stories choose me. So you are a storyteller first and a writer second? The storytelling is the fun part. The writing can be a lot of work! Does your background as a journalist help you? I work with emotions; language is the tool, the instrument. The story is always about some very deep emotion that is important for me.
When I write, I try to use language in an efficient way, the way a journalist does.
Isabel Allende on her new book, grandchildren and loss - changethru.info
You have very little space and time and have to grab your reader by the neck and not let go. From journalism I have also learned other practical things, like how to research a topic, how to conduct an interview, and how to observe and to talk to people on the street.
When you talk about opening yourself up to the experience, are you opening yourself up to a magical world? Do spirits actually come in and suggest words, images, and scenes for you? In a certain way. There is also an intellectual process, of course. But there is something magic in the storytelling. You tap into another world. I have a feeling that I don't invent anything. That, somehow, I discover things that are from another dimension.
That they are already there, and my job is to find them and bring them onto the page.
But I don't make them up. Over the years things have happened in my life and in my writing that have proved to me that anything is possible. I am open to all the mysteries. When you spend too many hours—as many, many hours a day as I do—alone and in silence, you are able to see that world. I imagine that people who pray or mediate for long hours, or who spend time alone in a convent or another quiet place, end up hearing voices and seeing visions because solitude and silence create the basis for that awareness.
Months or years later, I discover that it was true. And I'm always so scared when that happens.
What if things happen because I write them? I have to be very careful with my words. You don't have that power. Don't be so arrogant. What happens is that you are able to see them and other people are not because they don't have the time, because they are busy in the noise of the world. And although she did not write, she could guess things and tap into those unknown events and feelings. Your stepfather called you a mythomaniac.
He says that I am liar. When I was writing Paula it was the first time that I wrote a memoir. In a memoir one is expected to tell the truth. My stepfather and my mother objected to every page because from my perspective the world of my childhood—of my life—is totally different from the way they see it.
I see highlights, emotions, and an invisible web—threads that somehow link these things. It is another form of truth. Joyce Carol Oates talks about a luminous memory, as though it comes in and glows on a certain spot. I'm thinking of differences in how you remember events from your childhood. For example, you have a frightening memory of being hung upside down in a contraption intended to encourage your growth, though your stepfather remembers it as being a perfectly safe device.
Perhaps you are just remembering what you felt. While you may in fact have been in a safe device, you felt as though you were being strung up by the neck. For example, I will remember a story but can't remember a place or a date or a person or a name.
But I remember something striking about the story. Whereas some people will remember the date or what they were wearing. Or they remember just the facts. I will perhaps only remember what I fantasized about the event—my own version of the truth. But in the end, as in Eva Luna, first you say one thing and then you say— A. I have fifty versions of how I met Willie, my husband. He says they are all true. In your earlier novels, which address the political chaos of Latin America, the government is untrustworthy, inconsistent.
There is a Kafkaesque feeling that no matter what you do, you won't understand the government. The world is shifting, undependable. Do you see the spirit world as being a more dependable place? Is it in the spirit world that the infinite plan makes sense and in the real world that it doesn't? The spiritual world is a place where there is no good and evil. There are no rigid rules of any kind. In that sense it is totally different from the infinite plan—which is a joke—proposed by the preacher in my novel The Infinite Plan.
In the spiritual world there is only intention, there is just being. And there is no sense of right or wrong. Everything just is in a sort of very steady and still way. You don't have to decide anything.
Things just are, and you somehow float or—I don't know how to express this exactly—you are just there. In a very, very delicate form. This sounds very corny but my life has been determined by two things that have been extremely important: There are many forms of love, but the kind I am talking about is unconditional. For instance, the way we love a tree. We don't expect the tree to move or to do anything or to be beautiful.
You love an animal that way. We love children that way. As relationships become more complicated, you start demanding more. You want something in exchange for your love. You have expectations and desires and you want to be loved as much as you love. In this spiritual world, which is a world of love, there are no conditions.
Like the way I love my grandchildren. I think they are perfect. It doesn't matter whether they grow or stay the way they are because I can see them as the infants they were when they were just born, the people they will be when they are adolescents or adults.
The soul has no age. When we love something deeply and completely, we love the essence. I think transcendence is what you are talking about, the ability to move above and beyond this real world to a transcendent understanding of feelings and emotions. Would you say your novels are defined by that characteristic more than any other?
They say that if Kafka had been born in Mexico he would have been a realistic writer. So much depends on where you were born. Irene and Francisco in Of Love and Shadows have to be completely remade at the end of the novel. They get in the car and look at each other, each wondering who the other is.
With my novel Of Love and Shadows I was accused of being sentimental and too political. But I have sympathy for that book. First of all, because the story is true. The main story concerns a political crime committed in Chile, which I researched.
The characters are true. And also because it brought Willie into my life. Willie read that book, he fell in love with it, and eventually he fell in love with me. And, finally, because it brought to my life the awareness of how powerful the written word can be: You once said that you came from such a repressed background you have a hard time writing erotic scenes. No, I think it has to do with the book. Every book has a way of being written. Every story has a way of being told.
The story determines the tone in which we should tell things. Francisco and Irene are two very young people who lust for each other in the beginning and then they fall in love. By the time they have sex, they are really in love. They also have been touched for the first time in their lives with the brutality of death, torture, repression, and violence. Making love brings them back from hell to life, to the paradise of love. Later, they will be destroyed by events. Orpheus goes down to hell to bring his lover back to life.
At a lecture you mentioned you were not going to write any more short stories. Are you adamant about not returning to that genre? I should never say I'm never going to do something. Short stories come to you whole. The short story requires inspiration. All of a sudden, you have a flash of lucidity that lets you see an event from another angle that is totally unexpected. And you can't provoke that. It happens to you. You go to a place, you see some people dancing, and all of a sudden you understand the relationships between those people, or you seem to perceive something that is there that nobody else in the room can see.
And then you have a short story. Talk about The Stories of Eva Luna. They were written in the voice of Eva Luna, the protagonist of my previous novel.
All except for the last one, which is the story of how Rolf Carle finds a little girl in the mud and helps her to die. It was written from his point of view. That story really happened, in in Colombia. There was an eruption of a volcano called Nevado Ruiz, and a mudslide covered a village completely. Thousands of people died. They never recovered most of the bodies, and finally they declared the whole place a cemetery, a sacred land.
Among the many victims was a little girl, nine years old, called Omaira Sanchez. This girl, who had very short dark curly hair and huge black eyes, agonized for four days, trapped in the mud. The authorities could not fly in a pump to pump out the water and save her life. However, the media could bring television cameras in helicopters, planes, buses.
All over the world, for four days, the audience could see the agony of this child. You write in Spanish but live in English in the U. I'm struck by your ability to take something the majority of the world sees as a disadvantage and make it an advantage. Most people would see living in a second language as being marginalized. Who wants to be in the mainstream? The other day I heard something wonderful on TV about the problems this country is going to face in the next ten years—crime, violence, the lack of values, the destruction of the family, teenage pregnancy, drugs, AIDS.
Someone then said something extraordinary. Because they come to this country with the same ideas and the same strength that our great-grandparents came with. I don't find that difficult at all.
Esteban Trueba narrates parts of the book. With The Infinite Plan it was easy because I had my husband to guide me. Then I realized that there are more similarities than differences when it comes to gender. Essentially, human beings are very similar, but we are stuck in the differences instead of highlighting the similarities.
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- Life Inspiring Art: Isabel Allende
- Isabel Allende on her new book, grandchildren and loss
When I got into the skin of the male protagonist, who is based on my husband, Willie Gordon, I got to know him much better than if I had lived with him for thirty years. That seems like a good place for us to turn back to the world of the spirits, to the place we started. Would you add to the characteristics of the spiritual world that it is genderless? I have been a feminist all my life, fighting for feminist issues. When I was young, I fought aggressively.
I was a warrior then. And now I am becoming more aware of those essential things we men and women have to explore and that could really bring us together. But don't get me wrong: I am a feminist and a very proud one! I think that every story has a way of being told and every character has a voice. And you can't always repeat the formula. Magic realism, which was overwhelmingly present in The House of the Spirits, doesn't exist in my second book, Of Love and Shadows. Sometimes, magic realism works and sometimes it doesn't.
In any case, you will find elements of magic realism in literature from all over the world—not just in Latin America. You will find it in Scandinavian sagas, in African poetry, in Indian literature written in English, in American literature written by ethnic minorities.
For a while, in the U. And the goal of literature is to explore those mysteries. It actually enlarges your horizons. When you allow dreams, visions, and premonitions to enter into your everyday life and your work as a writer, reality seems to expand. You come from a most unusual family. Would you talk about your uncle, Salvador Allende, and how he influenced your life? I don't think he influenced my life much until he died, although I always had great admiration for him.
When we had the military coup in Chile init was not he, but the military coup that changed the lives of so many Chileans. It affected half the population dramatically. I saw him on weekends, sometimes on vacations, but I did not live with him.