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Chilean author Isabel Allende fired up in the 'solitude' of lockdown

·3 min read

By Lucila Sigal

(Reuters) - Isabel Allende has been busy during the pandemic. The 78-year-old Chilean author, feminist and national treasure says the tranquility helped her publish a book, write another, and start a third, even as she has also run a foundation to help women and had a television series made about her life.

"As a writer, the pandemic has been an opportunity to have time, silence and solitude, which are three things that you never get," Allende said with a laugh in a Zoom interview with Reuters from her California home, where she is on an "eternal honeymoon" with her new husband and their two dogs.

"Normally you have to fight for those things with a knife between your teeth."

Allende is one of the most widely-read living writers in the Spanish language. Some 25 books, including "The House of the Spirits" and "City of the Beasts," have been translated in over 40 languages. Last year, she published an essay on feminism, the "The Soul of a Woman."

The author says her journey into feminism began at a young age, after her father left and she watched her mother struggling with three young children. New women's movements such as Ni Una Menos in Latin America and @MeToo were reenergizing the cause, she said.

"This new wave has come with a tremendous force from women on the street, but also inviting other groups," she said, referring to movements for LGBTQ+ rights and Black Lives Matter.

The first 50 years of Allende's life have recently been dramatized for a television miniseries, "Isabel," showing on Amazon Prime's platform. She provided photos and videos for the production.

The series deals with Allende's childhood, her work as a journalist in Chile, and her exile to Venezuela after the 1973 military coup of Augusto Pinochet, who overthrew democratically elected Salvador Allende, a relative of Isabel. It also covers the death of her daughter Paula at age 29 from a rare illness.

"The first scene in which Paula appears in the hospital spun me around and I could not continue to see her," Allende said. She had to skip over that part before she could watch.

END OF CAPITALISM?

The author has lived for some three decades in the United States, and is a strong critic of the immigration policy of former President Donald Trump. She hopes President Joe Biden can change things, although believes that he will face tough obstacles.

"I think part of it is going to change. At the very least, they are not going to separate the children from the parents and put them in cages," she said.

Her homeland Chile is also going through a sharp political shift, with angry protests in 2019 leading to the start of a process to redraft the Pinochet-era constitution, which had helped underpin market-driven economic growth but is also blamed for widespread inequality.

Allende believes the reform drive won't revolutionize Chile's politics, but could create a more progressive society.

"I believe the strongest reforms people wanted will not be possible. What is possible will be the inclusion of all groups, for example, indigenous groups and especially women," Allende said. "It is not about ending capitalism, as some people think."

Allende has sold more than 75 million books worldwide and plans to publish her latest novel, "Violeta," early next year. She said her style of working was disciplined and punctual and that she spends much of her days happily writing her books.

"As long as I have a book, a book project, I'm fine, I don't need anything because I live in that fictional world, which for me is real," she said.

(Reporting by Lucila Sigal in Buenos Aires; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O'Brien)

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