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Isabel Allende (American Spanish: [isaˈβel aˈʝende] (About this soundlisten); born August 2, 1942) is a Chilean writer.[1][2] Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the genre magical realism, is known for novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias, 2002), which have been commercially successful. Allende has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author."[3] In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters,[4] and in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize.[5] President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.[6]

Isabel Allende
Allende in Barcelona, 2008
Allende in Barcelona, 2008
BornIsabel Allende Llona
(1942-08-02) 2 August 1942 (age 77)
Lima, Peru
Notable awards
  • Miguel Frías (1962–87)
  • Willie Gordon (1988–2015)
Children2, including Paula
RelativesAllende family

Allende's novels are often based upon her personal experience and historical events and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism. She has lectured and toured many U.S. colleges to teach literature. Fluent in English as a second language, Allende was granted United States citizenship in 1993, having lived in California since 1989, first with her U.S. husband (from whom she is now separated).


Allende was born Isabel Allende Llona in Lima, Peru, the daughter of Francisca Llona Barros and Tomás Allende, who was at the time a second secretary at the Chilean embassy. Her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973.[7][8][9]

In 1945, after Tomás disappeared,[7] Isabel's mother relocated with her three children to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953.[10][11] Between 1953 and 1958, Allende's mother was married to Ramón Huidobro and moved often. Huidobro was a diplomat appointed to Bolivia and Beirut. In Bolivia, Allende attended an American private school; and in Beirut, Lebanon, she attended an English private school. The family returned to Chile in 1958, where Allende was also briefly home-schooled. In her youth, she read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.

In 1970, Salvador Allende appointed Huidobro as ambassador to Argentina.[11]

While living in Chile, Allende finished her secondary studies and met engineering student Miguel Frías whom she married in 1962.[11] 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 magazine."[7]

From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, then in Brussels, and elsewhere in Europe. For a short time in Chile, she also had a job translating romance novels from English to Spanish.[12] 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 ending to allow the heroines to find more independence and do good in the world.[13]

Allende and Frías's daughter Paula was born in 1963. In 1966, Allende again returned to Chile, where her son Nicolás was born that year.

Exile In VenezuelaEdit

In 1973, Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.[14] Isabel found herself arranging safe passage for people on the "wanted lists", which she continued to do until her mother and stepfather 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.[7][15] It was during this time that Allende wrote her debut novel The House of the Spirits (1982). Allende has stated that her move from Chile made her a serious writer: "I don’t think I would be a writer if I had stayed in Chile. I would be trapped in the chores, in the family, in the person that people expected me to be." Allende believed that, being female in a patriarchal family, she was not expected to be a "liberated" person.[14] Her history of oppression and liberation is thematically found in much of her fiction, where women contest the ideals of patriarchal leaders.[16] In Venezuela she was a columnist for El Nacional, a major national newspaper.[17] In 1978, she began a temporary separation from Miguel Frías. She lived in Spain for two months, then returned to her marriage.[18]

Later lifeEdit

She divorced her first husband, Miguel Frias, in 1987. During a visit to California on a book tour in 1988, Allende met her second husband, attorney Willie Gordon. They married in July 1988.[19] In 1994, she was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit, the first woman to receive this honor. Allende resides in San Rafael, California. Most of her family lives nearby, with her son, his second wife, and her grandchildren just down the hill, in the house she and her second husband, San Francisco lawyer and novelist William C. Gordon, vacated.[7] She separated from Gordon in April 2015.[20]

In 2006, she was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.[21] She presented the talk Tales of Passion at TED 2007.[21] In 2008, Allende received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University for her "distinguished contributions as a literary artist and humanitarian."[22] In 2014, Allende received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Harvard University for her contributions to literature.


Allende started the Isabel Allende Foundation on December 9, 1996, in honor of her daughter, Paula Frías Allende, who fell into a coma after complications of the disease porphyria led to her hospitalization.[23] Paula was 29 years old when she died in 1992.[24] The foundation is "dedicated to supporting programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."[25]


Allende (in red, 3rd L to R), 2007, at TED in California, flanked (L to R) by Susan Cohen, Lakshmi Pratury and Tracy Chapman.

Beginning in 1967, Allende was on the editorial staff of Paula magazine and the children's magazine Mampato from 1969 to 1974, where she later became the editor.[26] She published two children's stories, "La Abuela 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 and 13 from 1970 to 1974.[26] As a journalist, she once sought an interview with poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda agreed to the interview, and he told her that she had too much imagination to be a journalist and should be a novelist instead.[12] He also advised her to compile her satirical columns in book form.[27] 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.

During her time in Venezuela, Allende was a freelance journalist for El Nacional in Caracas from 1976 to 1983 and an administrator of the Marrocco School in Caracas from 1979 to 1983.[26]

In 1981, while in Caracas, Allende received a phone call informing her that her 99-year-old grandfather was near death, and she sat down to write him a letter, hoping to thereby "keep him alive, at least in spirit." The letter evolved into a book, The House of the Spirits (1982); this work intended to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship. The book was rejected by numerous Latin American publishers, but eventually published in Buenos Aires. The book soon ran to more than two dozen editions in Spanish and was translated into a score of languages. Allende was compared to Gabriel García Márquez as an author in the style known as magical realism.[7][28]

Although Allende is often cited as a practitioner of magical realism, her works also display elements of post-Boom literature. Allende also holds to a very strict writing routine.[29] She writes on 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 the letter she wrote to her dying grandfather that would become The House of the Spirits."[30]

Allende's book Paula (1995) is a memoir of her childhood in Santiago and the years she spent in exile. It is written as an anguished letter to her daughter. In 1991, an error in Paula's medication resulted in severe brain damage, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state.[31] But Allende spent months at Paula's bedside before learning that a hospital mishap had caused the brain damage. Allende had Paula moved to a hospital in California where she died on December 6, 1992.

Allende's novels have been translated into more than 30 languages and sold more than 56 million copies.[32][33] Her 2008 book, The Sum of Our Days, is a memoir. It focuses on her life with her family, which includes her grown son, Nicolás; second husband, William Gordon; and several grandchildren.[32] A novel set in New Orleans, Island Beneath the Sea, was published in 2010. In 2011 came El cuaderno de Maya (Maya's Notebook), in which the setting alternates between Berkeley, California, and Chiloé in Chile, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada.


Latino Leaders Magazine called her a "literary legend" in a 2007 article naming her the third most influential Latino leader in the world.[25]

Her work has drawn some negative criticism. In her novel Yo-Yo Boing, Giannina Braschi declared that "Isabel Allende is killing García Márquez a little more each day the same way Michael Jackson's sisters are killing Michael Jackson."[34] In an article published in Entre paréntesis, Roberto Bolaño called Allende's literature anemic, comparing it to "a person on his deathbed," and later called her "a writing machine, not a writer".[35][36] Literary critic Harold Bloom said that Allende only "reflects a determinate period, and that afterwards everybody will have forgotten her".[36][37] Novelist Gonzalo Contreras said that "she commits a grave error, to confuse commercial success with literary quality".[38]

Allende said to El Clarín that she recognizes that she has not always received good reviews in Chile, stating that Chilean intellectuals "detest" her. However, she disagrees with these assessments:

The fact people think that when you sell a lot of books you are not a serious writer is a great insult to the readership. I get a little angry when people try to say such a thing. There was a review of my last book in one American paper by a professor of Latin American studies and he attacked me personally for the sole reason that I sold a lot of books. That is unforgivable.[39]

It has been said[by whom?] that "Allende's impact on Latin American and world literature cannot be overestimated."[25] The Los Angeles Times called Allende "a genius",[25] and she has received many international awards, including the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize,[25] granted to writers "who have contributed to the beauty of the world".[25]


External video
  Isabel Allende: Tales of passion, 18:00, TED Talks (2007)
  Isabel Allende, "Maya's Notebook" on YouTube, 56:00, talk begins at 4:10, UC Berkeley Events (2013)
  Isabel Allende: A Literary Life on YouTube, 23:30, National Geographic (2013)
  • Novel of the Year (Chile, 1983)
  • Panorama Literario (Chile, 1983)
  • Author of the Year (Germany, 1984)
  • Book of the Year (Germany, 1984)
  • Grand Prix d'Evasion (France, 1984)
  • Grand Prix de la Radio Télévision Belge (Point de Mire, 1985)
  • Best Novel (Mexico, 1985)
  • Colima Literary Prize (Mexico, 1986)
  • Quality Paperback Book Club New Voice (United States; 1986 nominee)
  • Author of the Year (Germany, 1986)
  • XV Premio Internazionale I Migliori Dell'Anno (Italy, 1987)
  • Premio Mulheres a la Mejor Novela Extranjera (Portugal, 1987)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee (United States, 1987)
  • Library Journal's Best Book (United States, 1988)
  • Before Columbus Foundation Award (United States, 1989)
  • Orden al Mérito Docente y Cultural Gabriela Mistral (Chile, 1990)
  • XLI Bancarella Literary Prize (Italy, 1993)
  • Independent Foreign Fiction Award (England, June–July 1993)
  • Brandeis University Major Book Collection Award (United States, 1993)
  • Feminist of the Year Award, The Feminist; Majority Foundation (United States, 1994)
  • Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres distinction (France, 1994)
  • Critics' Choice (United States, 1996)
  • Books to Remember, American Library Assoc. (United States, 1996)
  • Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature (United States, 1996).[40]
  • Malaparte Amici di Capri (Italy, 1998)
  • Donna Citta Di Roma (Italy, 1998)
  • Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (United States, 1998)
  • Sara Lee Foundation (United States, 1998)
  • Premio Iberoamericano de Letras José Donoso, University of Talca (Chile, 2003)
  • Premio Honoris Causa, Università di Trento en "lingue e letteratura moderne euroamericane" (Trento, Italy, May 2007)
  • Chilean National Prize for Literature (Chile, 2010)
  • Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction (USA, 2010)
  • Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award (Denmark, 2012)[41][42]
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (United States, 2014)[43]
  • Anisfield-Wolf Book Award: Lifetime Achievement (United States, 2017)[44]
  • BBC 100 Women (United Kingdom, 2018)[45]
  • National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (United States, 2018)[46]



  • The House of the Spirits (1982) La casa de los espíritus
  • The Porcelain Fat Lady (1984) La gorda de porcelana
  • Of Love and Shadows (1985) De amor y de sombra
  • Eva Luna (1987) Eva Luna
  • Two Words (1989) Dos Palabras
  • The Stories of Eva Luna (1989) Cuentos de Eva Luna
  • The Infinite Plan (1991) El plan infinito
  • Daughter of Fortune (1999) Hija de la fortuna
  • Portrait in Sepia (2000) Retrato en sepia
  • City of the Beasts (2002) La ciudad de las bestias
  • Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004) El reino del dragón de oro
  • Zorro (2005) El Zorro: Comienza la leyenda
  • Forest of the Pygmies (2005) El bosque de los pigmeos
  • Ines of My Soul (2006) Inés del alma mía
  • Island Beneath the Sea (2010) La isla bajo el mar
  • Maya's Notebook (2011) El Cuaderno de Maya
  • Ripper (2014) El juego de Ripper
  • The Japanese Lover (2015) El amante japonés
  • In the Midst of Winter (2017) Más allá del invierno ISBN 1501178156[47]
  • Long Petal of the Sea (2019) Largo pétalo de mar


  • Paula (1994) Paula ISBN 0060927216[48]
  • Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (1998) Afrodita
  • My Invented Country: A Memoir (2003) Mi país inventado
  • The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir (2008) La suma de los días


  1. ^ "Isabel Allende: "Big Think Interview with Isabel Allende" June 16, 2010"". Big Think. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  2. ^ Isabel Allende: "¡Escribo bien! Por lo menos admítanme eso" Emol, 17 December 2009
    Vengo a Chile por lo menos tres veces al año, me comunico con Chile todos los días a través de Skype con mi mamá, estoy enterada de lo que pasa y cuando me preguntan 'qué eres' digo automáticamente 'chilena'. Vivo en América, pero me siento profundamente chilena en la manera de vivir, de ser: soy mandona, metete, dominante, intrusa, hospitalaria, tribal. (Isabel Allende)
  3. ^ "Latin American Herald Tribune - Isabel Allende Named to Council of Cervantes Institute". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  4. ^ "American Academy of Arts and Letters – Current Members". Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Isabel Allende gana el Premio Nacional de Literatura tras intenso lobby | Cultura". La Tercera. 1 January 1990. Archived from the original on 28 July 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  6. ^ "President Obama Announces the Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". The White House. 10 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Review: The undefeated: A life in writing: Often compared to Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende is more interested in telling stories about her own life, her difficult upbringing, marriage, and her daughter's death. Aida Edemariam. The Guardian (London) – Final Edition. GUARDIAN REVIEW PAGES; Pg. 11. 28 April 2007 Isabel Allende website
  8. ^ Shirley Christian, Santiago Journal; Allende's Widow Meditates Anew on a Day in '73, The New York Times. Section A; Page 4, Column 3; Foreign Atlas. 5 June 1990
  9. ^ Veronica Ross, Sewing didn't cut it for Inés, Guelph Mercury (Ontario, Canada). BOOKS; Pg. C5. 3 March 2007
  10. ^ Mirta Ojito, A Writer's Heartbeats Answer Two Calls. 28 July 2003. The New York Times The article notes that Allende has been told that her father left them and that due to Chile's anti-divorce laws, Allende's mother couldn't divorce Tomás. Her mother, 83 when the article was published, and her stepfather, 87 at the time, have lived together for 57 years, but they are still not recognized in Chile as married.
  11. ^ a b c "Isabel Allende -". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  12. ^ a b Isabel Allende: A Critical Companion. Karen Castellucci Cox; Greenwood Press, 2003. 184 pgs. p. 2-4.
  13. ^ Alexandra Alter, Isabel Allende on Superstition and Memory. The Wall Street Journal, p. W4, 23 April 2010. "... she often changed the dialogue and endings to make the heroines seem smarter."
  14. ^ a b The Norton Anthology of World Literature. New York. 2018. pp. 1133–1141.
  15. ^ A Writer's Heartbeats Answer Two Calls. The New York Times. 28 July 2003 The New York Times article notes that she left Chile in 1975.
  16. ^ Dulfano, Isabel (October 2013). "A Response to Isabel Allende's Tanner Humanities Center Human Values Speech". Women's Studies. 42 (7): 816–826. doi:10.1080/00497878.2013.820615. ISSN 0049-7878.
  17. ^ "Isabel Allende: "mis mejores amigos son venezolanos"". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  18. ^ "Isabel Allende -". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  19. ^ "Isabel Allende - Timeline". Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  20. ^ Walker, Tim (15 November 2015). "Isabel Allende, The Japanese Lover: 'Fiction comes from the womb, not the brain' - book review". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  21. ^ a b Isabel Allende. "TEDtalks: Isabel Allende Tells Tales of Passion". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  22. ^ San Francisco State University 2008 Commencement Program
  23. ^ "After Paula: An Interview with Isabel Allende". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  24. ^ "Isabel Allende Foundation". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  25. ^ a b c d e f The list 101 top leaders of the Latino community in the U.S; Cover story. Allen, Kerri; Miller, Corina; Socorro, Dalia; Stewart, Graeme. Latino Leaders Pg. 24(27) Vol. 8 No. 4 ISSN 1529-3998. 1 June 2007
  26. ^ a b c Life at a glance. The Guardian (London). Guardian Saturday Pages; Pg. 6. 5 February 2000
  27. ^ Wall Street Journal p. W4, 23 April 2010: "... interviewed Pablo Neruda, the poet told her that she'd make a better novelist than a reporter. "I think he saw that I was a liar. As a journalist I could not be objective. I would make up stories ... At the time I was hurt because he said I was the worst journalist."
  28. ^ Levine, Linda Gould (2002). Isabel Allende. New York: Twane Publishers. pp. 114–133.
  29. ^ LATIN AMERICA'S SCHEHERAZADE; Drawing on dreams, myths, and memories, Chilean novelist Isabel Allende weaves fantastical tales in which reality and the absurd intersect. Fernando González. The Boston Globe MAGAZINE; Pg. 14. 25 April 1993
  30. ^ Allende, heroine 'Ines' are kindred spirits. Javier Erik Olvera. Inside Bay Area (California). BAY AREA LIVING; Home and Garden. 25 November 2006.
  31. ^ Hornblower, Margot (10 July 1995). "Grief and Rebirth". Time. Vol. 146 no. 2. p. 65. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  32. ^ a b This old "House" opened a lot of doors for author Allende; Theater preview. Misha Berson. The Seattle Times ROP ZONE; Ticket; Pg. H44. 1 June 2007
  33. ^ Wall Street Journal p. W4, 23 April 2010
  34. ^ "Curious interviews". Isabel Allende. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  35. ^ Bolaño, Roberto. Entre paréntesis, page 102: Es decir la literatura de Allende es mala, pero está viva, es anémica, como muchos latinoamericanos, pero está viva. No va a vivir mucho tiempo, como muchos enfermos, pero ahora está viva.
  36. ^ a b Los éxitos y las críticas Clarín. 9 February 2003
    Isabel Allende es una muy mala escritora y sólo refleja un período determinado. Después todos se olvidarán de ella. (Harold Bloom)
    Me parece una mala escritora, simple y llanamente, y llamarla escritora es darle cancha. Ni siquiera creo que Isabel Allende sea una escritora, es una escribidora. (Roberto Bolaño)
  37. ^ Isabel Allende (Bloom's Modern Critical Views) ISBN 0-7910-7039-5 ISBN 978-0-7910-7039-0
  38. ^ Isabel Allende critica duramente a escritores chilenos y desata polémica, La Tercera. 9 February 2003
    Ella incurre en un gravísimo error, confundir éxito de ventas con calidad literaria. (Gonzalo Contreras)
  39. ^ Donegan, Lawrence (12 July 2008). "This much I know: Isabel Allende, writer, 65, San Francisco". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  40. ^ "Hispanic Heritage Awards for Literature". Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  41. ^ "Isabel Allende Wins the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award". Hispanically Speaking News. 28 June 2011. Archived from the original on 27 June 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  42. ^ Trine Fisker (28 June 2011). "Allende får H.C. Andersen-pris". Nyhederne (in Danish). Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  43. ^ "Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to 18". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  44. ^ "Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards - The 82nd Annual". Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards - The 82nd Annual. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  45. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2018: Who is on the list?". BBC News. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  46. ^ "NBF to honor Isabel Allende with lifetime achievement award". National Book Foundation. 20 September 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  47. ^ In the Midst of Winter
  48. ^ Paula


  • Main, Mary. Isabel Allende, Award-Winning Latin American Author. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Pub., 2005. – ISBN 0-7660-2488-1
  • Bautista Gutierrez, Gloria and Norma Corrales-Martin. Pinceladas Literarias Hispanoamericanas. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2004.

External linksEdit