With a new memoir out and three-part miniseries ‘Isabel’ poised to launch March 12 on HBO Max, celebrated Chilean author Isabel Allende is back in the spotlight. Having been in quarantine the past year has made her even more productive, with her memoir “The Soul of a Woman,” on sale since March 2, and a new novel set to drop by the end of the year.
On Jan. 8, as she is renowned to do, Allende started work on another book. After all, it was on that fortuitous date, Jan. 8, 1981, that she started writing her bestselling debut novel, “The House of the Spirits,” which fired up her literary career and changed her life forever. “Everyone, my publisher, my agent, my family and friends know that on that date, “I’m not available,” she laughed. “Now it’s no longer a superstition, if not a form of discipline,” she said, adding that she rises early every day and hits the shower by 6 am every morning.
She hastens to add that she was not involved in the making of “Isabel” and reckons they used her past memoirs, “Paula,” “The Sum of Our Days” and in part, “My Invented Country,” as their source material.
“I can’t deny what they depict as they were based on what I wrote,” she said. “It’s a very dignified, respectful account of my life but they didn’t skip the bad parts, of course,” she said, in reference to producers Megamedia Chile and director Rodrigo Bazaes. “The only thing I requested was for them not to overly expose the private lives of my family and others; they are private citizens, after all,” she continued.
The miniseries, bookended by the unexpected death of her young adult daughter Paula, chronicles her rebellious childhood upended by a father who abandons the family, her growing success as a strong feminist voice in Chile through her sharp, witty articles in Paula magazine, her forced exile from Chile due to Pinochet’s military takeover, her struggles with her marriage, unemployment and other challenges. Unable to visit her dying grandfather while in exile, she writes him a letter which evolves into “The House of the Spirits,” a multi-generational magical realist story of a family spanning 17 years. A luminous Daniela Ramírez plays Allende who describes her as “gorgeous.” “I wish I had looked like that!,” she exclaimed.
Her memoir “Paula” also began as a letter, this time to her daughter who lay in a porphyria-induced coma in hospital. “I thought she wouldn’t remember her life when she woke up so I started writing about her life, her family, her country for her,” Allende recalled, adding: “When I realized she would never wake up, then the whole project changed.”
“The Soul of a Woman” is the literary icon’s memoir about her feminist roots and her thoughts on the situation of women in the world. “When I was five years old, I was already a feminist without knowing the word existed,” she mused. “Back then it was just known as anger, on my part, rage at my mother’s unfair situation,” she said. “What is the final goal of feminism? To end patriarchy; it’s not a war against men, it’s a war against the system,” she added. “I doubt it will happen in my lifetime but we’ll get there eventually,” said Allende who turns 79 in August.
Reflecting on the 1993 movie adaptation of “The House of the Spirits,” Allende pointed out that in the early ‘90s, you needed a big cast and most Americans didn’t read subtitles then. “Nowadays, it could be in Mayan, Spanish, Quechua or whatever language and you don’t need big names, just good actors.” She celebrates Hulu’s upcoming series adaptation of “The House of the Spirits,” which is still in development. “I’m not involved in any movies or TV series based on my books, my job is to write a story,” she asserted. “They might consult me but I don’t know anything about scriptwriting; I know my limitations,” she laughs.