Exclusive Essay
The most important literary influences for me have been the young adult books, the Russian novelists and the works of Shakespeare, which I read in my adolescence. They gave me the love of storytelling, strong characters, drama, tragedy, great plots. Later I read a lot of science fiction, which initiated me into the multiple possibilities of reality, imagination, mystery. European and North American feminists were essential to my development, they gave me an articulate language to express the feelings that had been tormenting me since childhood, they guided me into action, they changed my life. Thanks to them I became a feminist journalist. Women's issues are always present in my writing, it is one of the themes of my life, like politics, love, family, etc. The love of words comes probably from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Nobel Prize) whose work still inspires me. The desire to write started when I began reading the famous writers of the Latin American Boom of Literature in the seventies (all males!). I belong to the first generation of Latin American authors to be brought up reading other Latin American writers. Before, the distribution of those books was lousy, readers simply could not get them in their countries.

My life is about ups and downs, great joys and great losses. My writing comes not from the happy moments, but from struggle and grief. The first loss was my father, who left when I was so young that I have no memories of him. Then my grandmother, who died too soon...I still miss her! In 1973 there was a military coup in Chile and I fled the country. Exile made me a writer. I wrote my first novel The House of the Spirits as an attempt to recover the world that I had lost. And the greatest of all my pains was in 1992, when my daughter Paula fell in a coma and a year later died in my arms.

I write to understand my circumstances, to sort out the confusion of reality, to exorcise my demons. But most of all, I write because I love it! If I didn't write my soul would dry up and die...

© Isabel Allende 2000


Next Story