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Isabel Allende: a story hunter who will catch you

Isabel Allende won one of the greatest honors of American literature: the medal for her distinguished contribution to American letters

Isabel Allende: a story hunter who will catch you

Leer en español: Isabel Allende: una cazadora de historias que te atrapará

The ceremony of delivery of the National Book Award, one of the most important literary awards in the United States, was held a few days ago. Within the framework of this award, a Latin American was honored with one of the most prestigious honors: the medal for her distinguished contribution to American letters. This recognizes the work of a writer and his contribution to American letters, as well as its impact on the literary heritage and country's heritage, according to the website of the National Book Foundation.

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It is about the Chilean writer Isabel Allende, author of The House of the Spirits (1982) and The City of the Beasts (2002). Other writers who have received this award before her are: Annie Proulx, Robert A. Caro, Don Dedillo, Ursula K. Le Guin and EL Doctorow. In this way, Allende became the first Spanish-language author to receive this distinction.

Once the Chilean said in an interview, according to her website, she can only "write fiction in Spanish." This is because for her this "is an organic process that happens in" her mother tongue. Then she stated that fortunately she has "excellent translators around the world". In fact, according to the Foundation, Allende has been translated into more than 30 languages. Her sales are not far behind, as in her years as a writer she has sold almost 70 million copies.

In this way, upon receiving this medal, the Chilean gives an account of the importance of Latin American literature in the literary and cultural scene of the world. Moreover, she realizes the great impact these literary voices have had on readers who, like her, are migrants in the United States, a country that has welcomed her for more than 30 years.

Isabel Allende: a story hunter

Born in 1942, Allende has published more than 20 books, among which are Paula (1994), one of the most intimate works of the Chilean woman who tells one of the most heartbreaking experiences that any mother can face: the death of a daughter. This was configured at the time of writing as a cathartic exercise on the part of the author, as a way of carrying out the mourning, as she mentioned. Among her novels you can also find The Island under the Sea (2009) and Beyond the Winter (2017), in addition to those already mentioned.

Now, both in interviews and in her acceptance speech for that medal of honor, Allende described herself as a hunter of stories. But what does this mean? The same writer explained in an interview published on her website that this refers to her ability to find in people and real situations a source of inspiration for her stories; as well as feelings such as loss, nostalgia and separation, taking into account their migrant status and that feeling of not belonging to any place.

Maybe that's why Allende is a writer who feeds on reality, whether it's someone else's or her own. "Everybody has a story and they are all interesting if they are well told, I read the newspapers and sometimes some vignettes buried in the pages can inspire me, I am also inspired by travel, my family, my own life experience," she said. This is not something strange in literature, because as she well said: although "the novel is fiction, a bundle of lies", it reflects a reality.

A reality that is ordered by the writer, who decides from which perspective the story will be told and what will be told, and this is precisely what Allende does in her works. Her writing process begins by observing and listening, taking notes of what is happening around her, she said during the delivery ceremony. In this way, the Chilean woman begins drawing "the lives of other people, especially the strong and passionate women that she knows everywhere".

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These are the experiences on which her stories are based. In those memories of other people and hers, memories that are subjective and conditioned by emotions and beliefs like life itself, she said. As in the writing process, in life we ​​also choose what we highlight and what we ignore, she added.

Perhaps that is the impact that this great author has had in the United States and in the world: her narrative ability to connect with readers by bringing such human characters that we can find similarities with and also feel identified. In fact, according to the chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation, David Steinberger, Allende is a writer "capable of forging deeply emotional connections with readers around the world."

For him, the Chilean "draws from his own experiences to offer a global audience access to specific stories from the geographical and cultural point of view that otherwise could never reach them." Moreover, according to Steinberger, the Chilean "has offered generations of fans multi-layered narrations and deep feelings that illuminate the rich lives and stories of their characters."

This explains some of the reasons why this medal was given, which accounts for the great influence of this writer in literature. An author who has also won other awards and whose works have been adapted to the movies, who has established herself as "the most widely read living writer of the Spanish language in the world," several media outlets say.

 

LatinAmerican Post | Diana Rojas Leal

Translated from: 'Isabel Allende: una cazadora de historias que te atrapará'

 

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