Isabel Allende talks about life, writing, covid-19 and her new book at the LeV festival
The writer Isabel Allende spoke today about her life and the creative process, the covid-19 and the Trump administration, the situation in Latin America and refugees, during an online conference, in which she also announced her new book.
Chilean and American writer Isabel Allende, living in the United States, was invited to the opening panel of the 14th edition of the LEV Literary Festival – Literatura em Viagem, which takes place in Matosinhos and which this year takes place by videoconference, due to the restrictions imposed by the covid-19 pandemic.
In a virtual conversation with readers, moderated by Helder Gomes, the author of “A casa dos espíritos” started by talking about the importance of travel and places in her life and writing, and exemplified with a trip she made to India.
“After Paula’s death [the writer’s daughter] I was in an inner cave and the trip helped me out and it was very inspiring”, she recalls, pointing out that, in her books, there is a “strong sense of place and time” and all the trips she’ve made appear in her books.
This was due to the fact that whole her life she felt foreign in all the places where she lived. Although they were all important, they did not allow her to develop a strong enough sense of belonging.
Isabel Allende was born in Peru, where her father was working, but has Chilean nationality, where she lived for a few years, before moving to Lebanon, Venezuela and United States, where she lives since 1989.
The country she always prefers to return to is Chile, but she confesses to be “very happy” living in California.
Regarding the way she sees Latin America from California, she assumes that she sees it better than in the 70s, when many countries lived under military dictatorships and had guerrilla movements, whereas today they have democratic governments, even though there is corruption , economic crises and governments that do not serve the population.
In other words, “it’s better, but there are still serious problems: I live in California and on the border with Mexico, there are refugee camps, thousands and thousands of people, especially women and children, asking for political asylum because they come from countries where you can’t live, because of crime, drug trafficking, poverty and corruption, which are so serious that you cannot live. People seek refuge because they are desperate, and this is the situation today in Latin America ”.
Regarding her perspective, still as a resident in the United States, of covid-19 pandemic situation in that country, Isabel Allende said: “Very badly, because there is no competent government”.
“There is a government led by Trump, which is characterized by inconsistency, incompetence and lies. There are already more than 80,000 dead, far more than in the Vietnam War, there are more killed by the virus than by all the wars that the United States has entered” she said.
The writer noted that the governors of each state seek other solutions, but “the solution must come from the federal government and in this case there is no one to trust”.
However, she acknowledged that her situation is “privileged”, since she lives in a state with a governor that she considers good, and in a good house, located just in front of the sea.
“It’s all fine with me, but people are suffering a lot, especially Latinos, most of them without documents, work and insurance,” so without access to health services, she said.
In a reference to the importance of the family in some of her books, such as “A casa dos espíritos”, and answering the question whether family always overlaps politics, Isabel Allende stated that she depends on the family, remembering that at the time of Allende’s Socialist Government, and after the military coup, and during dictatorship, there were families that were divided and never reconciled, but there were also those that remained united, even with ideological and political differences.
“The same is happening today in the United States with the polarization between Democrats and Republicans, the ideology and political anger is sometimes so great that it changes the family,” she said.
In “Casa dos Espíritos, “there is the family’s micro world and the macro world of a country that looks like Chile, and what goes on inside the family is a reflection of what goes on outside, the political and historical situation of the country” she added.
Talking about her own different facets – woman, feminist, philanthropist and writer – and to the fact that she once claimed that her greatest achievement was not to write but to love, Isabel Allende was asked about what is more important in her life.
“Being a writer is my public life, love is what I feel for family. Action is not the same as the feeling. I don’t have to choose. I can be a writer, woman, feminist and philanthropist and live love intensely ”.
About love, she spoke about family especially about the death of her daughter Paula.
Isabel Allende said her daughter died after a year in coma, and that year was “a long dark night”, in which all days were the same, and after her death she felt “a huge emptiness”.
It was when she started to write “Paula” and “day by day, tear by tear” she realized what happened that year, she separated the events and this helped her to realize and accept that death as the only solution.
The writer also spoke about her creative process, assuming that she is very disciplined and sets a “sacred time” for writing, confessing some superstition, as she starts all books on January 8, the date she started “Casa dos Espíritos”. The book that made her successful. That is why she set the date for starting all the books, to give her luck.
The next project she’s working on, which is due to be published in Spain and Portugal in November, is a non-fiction book, a memoir of her life, as a woman and feminist, and is called “Que queremos las mujeres”, revealed the author.
Asked about the importance of spirituality in her life, since it is so present in the work, Isabel Allende stated that she is not a religious person. She even confessed that “all religious institutions are horrifing, because they are dogmatic, sexist and seek power”.
The spirituality she has is “the same as every human being has, that seeks to transcend, that seeks ethics”, and that “must be cultivated”. And that is what she cultivates “in life and in literature”.
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