By Lucila Sigal
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Chilean writer Isabel Allende on Monday applauded the gender parity of Chile’s new government, said it was time for the old policy to give way to young people and was curious that a granddaughter of the former president Salvador Allende has been appointed defense minister.
“It’s a new generation rising to power. It’s time for the old geezers to go home and play bingo,” the 79-year-old writer said in a videoconference for the launch of her latest novel called “Violeta.”
“I am delighted by the ministry that (president-elect Gabriel) Boric has appointed because it is very diverse, there are 14 women and 10 men. There really is a solid intention that there be gender parity and that is just extraordinary,” she added.
Boric appointed a cabinet made up of a majority of women, including the socialist deputy Maya Fernández, granddaughter of Salvador Allende, the president overthrown in the 1973 military coup. The writer is the niece of the former president.
“Not only will she be Minister of Chile, she will be Minister of Defense. In other words, she is a young woman who grew up in Cuba, the granddaughter of Salvador Allende, in a very special position, in which she will have to deal with the armed forces and not let’s forget about the past of the armed forces in Chile,” said the author.
“I see it as a curious thing,” added Allende, author of “The House of the Spirits,” the book that made her famous and whose publication is 40 years old.
In “Violeta”, the most widely read Spanish-language living writer in the world once again immerses herself in the female universe to tell the story of a woman who was born in 1920 with the so-called “Spanish flu” and dies with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the story of a 100-year life crossed by historical events.
The Penguin Random House book, which will arrive in bookstores in Spain, the United States and Latin America on Tuesday, is inspired by his mother, who died shortly before the emergence of the coronavirus. “There is inspiration from my mother (…) we were very close and I have my mother’s entire life in letters,” said the author of 25 books translated into 42 languages.
“Violeta is similar to my mother in the sense that she is beautiful, interesting, strong, ironic, daring and with a great vision regarding the future and things (…) But, unlike her, she can be an independent woman And there is no feminism without economic independence,” added Allende, who runs a foundation to help women.
Its 100 years of life are shaped by some of the great events in history: from the crash of 1929 to the fight for women’s rights, through the rise and fall of Latin American dictators and two pandemics.
“It is also a time and in that sense you could say that it is an almost historical novel because it is an important part of the 20th century, of how we live it in South America,” Allende had said in an interview with Reuters in 2021.
The book, which Allende began writing shortly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic without knowing where it would take her, is a long letter from the protagonist to her grandson, a Jesuit priest, in which she recalls disappointments in love and passionate romances, moments of poverty and prosperity, terrible losses and immense joys.
“I never have a clear history (of his novels),” he said with a laugh.
“The work of starting a book is always like throwing a candle into a dark place, which little by little illuminates the corners and from there the characters emerge, the story forms almost by itself. I have learned in these 40 years of literature to have confidence, not to try to put history in a straitjacket”, he concluded.
(Reporting by Lucila Sigal, edited in Spanish by Daniela Desantis)