My Invented Country: A Memoir

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9780007163090: My Invented Country: A Memoir

The life story of Isabel Allende - one of the world's favourite writers. "The biggest straitjacket is all the prejudices that we carry around, and all the fears. But what if we just surrender to the fear? There are things greater than fear. The great, wonderful quality of human beings is that we can overcome even absolute terror, and we do." Just three when her parents divorced, Isabel Allende was raised in her grandparents' home in Chile. She left school at 16; and married Miguel Frias at 19. She then juggled her work as a journalist, editor, advice columnist and television interviewer with looking after her two children. But when her cousin the Chilean president Salvador Allende was assassinated in 1973 in Pinochet's right-wing military coup, her life changed profoundly. It was too dangerous to stay in Chile; and she, her husband, and their two children fled to Venezuela. During her impoverished exile, she started writing "The House of the Spirits".

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Review:

"Nostalgia is my vice," admits Isabel Allende in My Invented Country. A question about nostalgia propels an exploration of her past, including the complicated history and politics of Chile, where she spent the better part of her childhood. Despite her strong connection to Chile, Allende says she has "been an outsider nearly all my life." Her stepfather was a diplomat, so her family moved quite frequently. In her travel diary, Allende compares everything to Chile, her "one eternal reference" point.

"From saying goodbye so often my roots have dried up," she notes. She successfully reclaims them, however, through two channels. Allende relays anecdotes about what she calls her untraditional family--whom she has based some of her novels upon, including The House of the Spirits. Like a few of her novels, though, her own story is lost in heavy policy analysis. Interspersed among her ancestors' tales is an all-too-exhaustive report of Chile: the terrain, its people, customs, language, its heroes and villains, and the government.

Allende fled Chile after the military coup on September 11, 1973. Twenty-eight years later, and now living in the United States, this date haunts her when terrorists attack New York City and Washington, D.C. Allende admits that the place she is homesick for may have never existed. In spite of that, Allende asserts that she can live and write anywhere: "I don’t belong to one land, but to several, or perhaps only to the ambit of the fiction I write." The irony is that she steadfastly has "one foot in Chile and another here." --C.J. Carrillo

About the Author:

Isabel Allende was born in 1942, the cousin of Salvador Allende, who went on to become famous as the elected President of Chile deposed in a CIA-backed coup. She worked as a journalist, playwright and children's writer in Chile until 1974 and then in Venezuela until 1984. Her first novel for adults, The House of the Spirits, was published in Spanish in 1982, beginning life as a letter to her dying grandfather. It was an international sensation, and ever since all her books have been acclaimed and adored in numberless translations worldwide.

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