Isabel Allende has a room of her own, but what about the others?
The writer publishes The Soul of a Woman, a reflection on the feminism that accompanied her throughout her life, among other things. Who are her companions…
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Heiress to García Márquez, whose novel One Hundred Years of Solitude inspired her to write The House of the Spirits, the book that catapulted her to fame and made her one of the most widely read writers in the world, Allende has to her credit works that have made a mark and touched the hearts of many readers. Such as Paula, about the experience of her daughter's illness and death, or Ines of my Soul, in which she recounts the life of the first Spaniard to arrive in Chile.
Her latest work, The Soul of a Woman (Ballentine Books), is not only her first non-fiction book in more than a decade, but also an honest memoir in which she recounts her relationship with feminism since she was a child, in kindergarten; her exile from Chile and even her relationship with other women who marked her, such as her mother Pachita, her daughter Paula, the agent who gave her her first opportunity - the Spanish Carmen Balcells -, or the writers to whom she has felt most connected: Virginia Woolf and Margaret Atwood.
Allende even takes the liberty of reflecting on the #MeToo movement and the social uprisings in Chile.
A publication that almost coincides in time with the premiere of the miniseries Isabel on HBO Max, a fiction based on the life of the Chilean writer that she says has managed to move her and her family in many moments.
"There are parts of the world where women are worth less than cattle," said the author, a self-confessed feminist, when the book came out.
Allende, 78, recalled that when she took her first steps into feminism at a very young age, her mother feared she would be assaulted for it - "it was even rude to be a feminist," she said. And also: "For every slap I got, I was able to give two."
The writer, whose foundation supports numerous social projects with migrant women and children as protagonists, defines feminism as the most important revolution in history - an "irreversible" one, she says - and as a philosophy in the face of life and against a system where political, economic, social, cultural or religious oppression prevails. In other words, an intersectional feminism that confronts a patriarchy that excludes and subjugates.
"There would be other races, the poor, the disabled, the so-called 'losers'. It is about liberating that and having a management of the world and that feminine and masculine values have the same weight, that we share the administration of this planet on equal terms. That means fundamental changes that we are not going to achieve in my lifetime, but it doesn't matter. I am a link in that chain of people, and not just women, who have achieved a lot and continue to fight so that my granddaughters and great-granddaughters live in a world that is no longer a patriarchy. That is my dream," she told Efe.
However, beyond her philanthropic work, this memoir seems to come at a very opportune or "opportunistic" moment, as Isabel Allende, who is often recognised as the only woman of the Latin American boom, and many others of the "post-boom" - she disavows the label in some interviews -, has not spent too much saliva or taken advantage of her privilege to bring to the fore other female authors of her generation hidden under the long shadow of Vargas Llosa and García Márquez - otherwise avowedly macho.
His favourite authors include Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir and Eve Ensler. In other words, not a single Latina female writer, not a single one of her generation or of those who succeeded her. In addition, some of the women writers cited, on whom Allende focuses, are not only a rampant cliché but the antithesis of the intersectional feminism of which the Chilean boasts.
Among them is Virginia Woolf, the paradigm of a Victorian woman who, in some biographies and from her letters and diaries, is shown to be completely xenophobic, classist and toxic towards her friends and family.
We recommend Virginia Woolf. The Life in Writing, the most complete biography of the author of Orlando and A Room of One's Own, written by the Argentinian Irene Chikiar Bauer, which in its 900 pages describes a brilliant author who refused to be the "angel of the home", who claimed to write like a man and distanced herself from the domestic sphere and sentimentality, while at the same time showing herself to be a reference point for an eminently white, class-based feminism that treated the working-class women she taught as gossipy and uneducated, or who achieved suffragism thanks to her husband and not on her own merits.
Or that she lived in torment in the time before her suicide because Leonard Woolf generously decided to shelter humble people in his house in the countryside during wartime.
Feminism, Allende says, is a stance on life. But one knows where one stands in relation to others and "with others".
The subtle difference between the slogan and the badge and the action that is infinitely more powerful than the word. Especially at a time when there is too much talk.