Beyond Literary Landscapes—Isabel Allende

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.

Who

This column serves as an introduction to the works of Isabel Allende, a reminder of some of the author’s classics, and as an inspiration for further reading.

Born in Lima, Peru, before moving to Chile, Allende is a popular Chilean-American author.  With her family, in 1973, she was forced to flee to Venezuela after the assassination of her uncle Salvador Allende, then President of Chile.

Many of her novels are considered magic realism, which is defined as a “chiefly Latin-American narrative strategy that is characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into seemingly realistic fiction.”  First developed in 1925 by German art critic Franz Roh and coined as “magical realism” in 1955 by literary critic Angel Flores, magic realism became immensely popular throughout Latin America.  In particular, “French-Russian Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier was influenced by magic realism.”  The popularity of the genre has since spread to other countries.

In addition, most of Allende’s works “examine the role of women in Latin America,” as well as South American politics.

For further reading, authors covering similar topics, themes, or writing in similar styles include Laura Esquivel, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, and Miguel Ángel Asturias.

What

Some of Isabel Allende’s well-known works of include The House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, and Daughter of Fortune.

Other notable works include Paula: A Memoir and Island Beneath the Sea.

Where

These novels (and memoir) take place in Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

When

Allende’s works are often set in the late 19 and early 20-centuries.

Why

For readers interested learning more about magic realism, family, love, loss, and grief, as well as the Haitian Revolution, Chilean political upheaval, military dictatorship, and family sagas, the works of Allende are a place to begin.

How

AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the works of Isabel Allende are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with a counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may consider a broad research topic in ENGL 458: The Latin American Novel, a senior-level, three-credit course “focusing on fiction and memoir written in the context of history, politics, culture, identity, and genre.”  Although Allende is not included in the current syllabus, the works of other magic realism authors, such as García Márquez and Asturias are.  Happy reading!

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