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Isabelle Allende

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“Isabelle Allende”
While working as a translator, translating English novels to Spanish, Isabel Allende was fired for taking it upon herself to change the female protagonist to make her seem more self-sufficient, charitable, and smart. Furthermore, it comes as no surprise that several of her novels revolve around the theme of women challenging male authority. Her themes center on women’s experiences as well as magic and mysticism and stem from her own life experiences.
Isabel Allende was born to father Tomas Allende, Chilean diplomat in Peru, and Francisca Llona Barrios on August 2, 1942. At age 3 her father “disappeared” and Barrios was forced to take on the role of mother and father. So she chose to relocate with her three children to Chile. This would be the first of many “homes” for Allende. In fact, she moves so much during an interview she stated, “I have been a foreigner all my life” (Sethi).
However, the decision to constantly relocate was not always voluntary but rather necessary. For instance, in 1973 when she was contracted by a military coup, that had brought Augusto Pinochet to power, to help people who were on the wanted list escape. This ceased when Allende discovered her name on the list at which point she decided to flee to Venezuela where she held residence for 13 years. Even though some of her travels hold unpleasant memories one that brought her much joy was her trip to California in 1988. Here she met her second husband Willie Gordon.
Allende’s first marriage was to Miguel Frias with whom she had two children Paula and Nicolas. Her daughter Paula was actually one of the main characters in a novel Allende wrote titled, Paula. The novel Paula is similar to The House of the Spirits both of which are letters to loved ones. Paula had fallen victim to Porphyria which caused her to slip into a coma from which she never awoke. The letters were intended to fill Paula in on everything she had been missing during her coma but unfortunately Paula never got the opportunity to read them. As in, The House of the Spirits, which was letters intended for her dying grandfather, writing Paula was a method of coping and healing with the situation. “It saved me from total despair, it helped me understand and accept what happened” (Sethi).
Allende has a very disciplined work method working from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week until she has completed her masterpiece. Another step to her method is always beginning a new project on January 8th. The reason for this is that this was the day that she began writing the letters to her dying grandfather that ultimately turned into the one of her most well-known novels, The House of the Spirits therefore she considers it a lucky day.
Although her career as an author has become the most publicized Allende has work experience in several fields she has worked as an editor, television producer, playwright, administrator and journalist. Her first career path lead her to Paula which was a feminist magazine in Chile. Here her main focus was writing articles and satirical columns. Secondly, she pursued a career as a television producer starting off as a host to a humor program and as an interviewer. Then she wrote the play El Embajador which played in Santiago. Followed by a job as an administrator in a secondary school at Marroco College in Caracas. Here she would work 12 hour days and still come home afterwards, lock herself away, and write. Interestingly enough she was a terrible journalist and had no problem admitting it in fact, in an interview with BBC World Service she states, “'I was a lousy journalist. I could never be objective. Sometimes I invented the whole story.” It was Pablo Neruda, a famous poet in Chile, who finally jump started her career as a novelist he said to her, “'Pablo Neruda said "you are the worst journalist in this country. You lie all of the time. Why don't you switch to literature?" (BBC World Service). He inspired her first novel, The House of The Spirits, by suggesting she take her columns and changing them into book format. Since her first novel she has received over 30 awards in the countries of Chile, Mexico, Europe, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, England and The United States.
Aside from her work she has also taken part in several humanitarian efforts she participated in the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization first in Chile followed by Belgium and Europe. Along with working with organizations she also created her own, The Isabel Allende Foundation, in tribute to her daughter Paula Frias. Paula had always been a generous and caring women and Allende’s only wish is to continue her work. Paula believed that, "you only have what you give; it’s by giving that you become rich” (Allende). This quote is now seen on the homepage of The Isabelle Allende website.
She found inspiration for the organization during an encounter with some women in India. One evening Allende, Willie, her husband, and Tabra, her friend, along with their guide Sirinder were driving through the countryside when suddenly they noticed four women underneath a tree in the middle of nowhere. This sparked some curiosity so they asked the guide to stop. When they approached the women they were frightened but eventually warmed up to them Allende and her friend offered them bracelets. Before their departure one of the ladies handed a package to Allende and she thought it was some type of payment for the bracelets and Allende refused it but she insisted. To her dismay when she opened the package rather than payment a newborn child was inside. The guide ended up taking the baby and placing it on the ground and taking off. When Willie asked the guide, “Why did that woman try to give her baby away? (Allende) he responded “It was a girl. Who wants a girl?” (Allende).
This story touched her and she felt that although she couldn’t help that newborn or her mother she could attempt to lessen the amount of them through her foundation. Hence why the organization seeks to “achieve a world in which women and girls have economic and social justice, empowerment, and protection” (MyHero). She funds her foundation from income collected from the books she has written.
Transitioning from her biography to a closer look at one of her novels I chose the book The City of the Beasts. This book is the first book of a trilogy followed by Kingdom of the Golden Dragons, and Forest of the Pygmies. The genre associated with this is fiction fantasy and the age group is aimed at young adults.
The book starts off with Alexander Cole being sent off to New York with his grandma Kate because his mother and father must head to Texas to begin his mother’s treatment for her sudden illness. His grandmother is a writer for an International Geographic and he basically thinks she’s crazy. On the way to his grandma’s he manages to get his bags stolen which contained his flute (but receives a new one from his grandmother). When Alex finally arrives to his grandma’s she tells him he must gather his bags because they will be going on an expedition to South America in the Amazon in search for a beast similar to that of a Yeti.
Once they’re there he meets Nadia and the People of the Mist which are an invisible Indian tribe. Nadia is the daughter of the expedition leader. Alex and Nadia becoming really good friends. As they continue walking through Timothy Bruce, the photographer, decides he would like to take a picture. Unfortunately, while attempting to do so he gets attacked by an anaconda. Alex is able to come to his rescue however, the camera man is still left severely injured.
After that incident Alex decides that it would be a good idea to play his flute. This serves two purposes calming the expedition down and keeping the animals away. Doing this attracts the people of the Mist in fact they enjoy it so much that they lead “the chosen ones” to their village. Similarly like the People of the Mist, their village appeared out of nowhere.
One night at the funeral of Mokarita, the chief of the people of the mist, everyone is given a drug. This drug show Alex and Nadia’s totem. Alex is a jaguar and Nadia is a bird. In that dream they also see three eggs and holy water. They tell Walimai, an Indian Shawman, of their dream and he immediately takes them to the city of the beasts also known as the city of the gods. When they seed the beasts they compare them to looking like large sloths. Their job within the community is to be the living memory of the tribe and recite poems passed down for generations. Meeting the beasts begins their journey. Walimai gives Nadia an amulet which is intended to protect her through the journey. The beast told them he would help them locate the eggs for Alex’s mom but emphasizes the importance of giving something to nature if you take something from nature.
Nadia’s task was to go up a mountain to locate the eggs. When she finally reaches them she attempts to pick them up but they are entirely too heavy for her. Then she suddenly recalls what the beast told her and gives her amulet when she does that she attempts to pick the eggs up again and is able to do it with ease. Alex’s task is to go through tunnels towards the fountain of life he wants it for his mother. In order to receive it however he too must give something up, he gives up his flute.
When both return with the items they needed they notice that there are several helicopters and the expedition is there. The expedition tells them that they want to vaccinate the Indians to prevent possible diseases from spreading. However, there intent is to kill off the Indians by injecting them with deadly doses of the measles virus. The Indians realize this and begin to flee and the soldiers begin firing at them. Since Alex told the Indians the expeditions plan he angered Captain Ariosto and for that he was held captive. However, with the help of Walimai he is able to his escape.
Walimai leaves the beasts to release their toxic smell. The beast kills Captain Ariosto. Alex and Nadia are now jaguar and eagle and return civilization with Kate and the no conspirators of the expedition. Alex and Nadia promise to remain in touch.
Alex Cole is the main character in this book. He is fifteen but feels more mature for is age and is furious when he’s not consulted about the decision to be sent off to his grandmothers. Although he believes he’s more mature he is actually very short tempered, immature, and self-centered.
Kate is Alex Cole’s grandmother who he is sent to stay with. She is a writer for an International Geographic. Since that is her job she has had the opportunity to travel several places throughout the world. She is stubborn and has a difficult time conveying her love for others. Nadia Santose is daughter of Cesar Santos. She is several years younger than Alex and has a pet monkey by the name of Borob’a
Furthermore, this books theme seemed to center on preserving Indian tribes and facing your fears. This book included long descriptions some of which seemed a bit unnecessary and that caused some confusion. Honestly I don’t see myself reading the other two books in the trilogy. Overall this book was definitely not my favorite and I probably wouldn’t recommend it to others. A lot of the reviews I have read in English and in Spanish have had the same reactions, the readers were disappointed and overall didn’t like the book very much. I compared the reviews from 2002 which was around the time the book was written and reviews from 2013 and they were all pretty much the same, readers where dissatisfied. The ratings among the reviews were pretty much all similar receiving three out of five stars. One of the most interesting reviews I read was from Elisabeth Carey she pointed out some things that I had missed. “Besides the failures of logic and characterization, Ms. Allende is also guilty of a simple failure to check easily checked facts. On page 139, we learn this important fact about anacondas: "They didn't dare probe around too much, because those reptiles were known to travel in pairs, and no one was inclined to chance another confrontation." This seemed odd to me, and I did a little checking. Amongst the several sources I found that told me the anaconda is ordinarily solitary are and And concerning the Beasts, on page 389: "...they're very ancient animals, maybe from the Stone Age, or earlier." Now, maybe Ms. Allende doesn't have web access, but I bet she has access to at least one good library. I bet a reference librarian could help her find out something about the habits of anacondas, or whether the Stone Age counts as "ancient" on the scale of biological evolution.”
Although I did find reviews that enjoyed the book overall it was unsuccessful. Honestly, if Norton had millions of pieces to choose from I’m almost positive this would not be included in one of his anthologies. I believe this because of its low star ratings and dissatisfaction amongst readers. I can definitely see the theme of fictional fantasy within City of the Beasts and although I am a big fan of fiction I guess I just wasn’t a fan of her fantasy. Allende has had several best sellers but I just so happened to choose one that wasn’t and I can definitely see why. In conclusion, Isabelle Allende is one of the most read Spanish language authors this is evident in all the awards she has received. This is probably attributed to her unique writing style. Her work provides the reader with interesting story lines by weaving in elements of fiction fantasy, magical realism, and her own personal experiences.

Work Cited:
"Isabel Allende." Isabel Allende. N.p., 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013
Allende, Isabel. "Isabel Allende- An Epiphany in India." Wanderlust - Presented by GeoEx. Wanderlust, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.

Allende, Isabel. "The Isabel Allende Foundation." The Isabel Allende Foundation. N.p., 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.

Carey, Ellisabeth. "City of the Beasts -- Isabel Allende." City of the Beasts -- Isabel Allende. New England Science Fiction Association, Inc., 2002. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
"City of the Beasts (Eagle and Jaguar #1)." Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
"Isabel Allende.": Voices From the Gaps : University of Minnesota. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.

"Isabel Allende- A Life of Extremes." BBC News. BBC, 1 May 2000. Web. 09 Nov. 2013.
Salter, Jessica. "Inside Isabel Allende's World: Writing, Love and Rag Dolls." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.

Sethi, Anita. "Isabel Allende: My Family Values." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 14 Sept. 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2013.

"Writer Hero: Isabel Allende." N.p., 15 Sept. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.


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