A woman, a century and two pandemics: Isabel Allende presents “Violeta”, her new novel

Isabel Allende and her most recent novel, “Violeta” (Plaza & Janés/ EFE)

Isabel Allende, the most widely read Spanish-speaking writer in the world, has a new book, “Violeta”. Set mainly in Chilean Patagonia, but with moments in Argentina, Miami and Norway, the novel deals with various themes, from feminism and human rights violations to homosexuality, amorous passions, infidelity and even global warming.

However, “what matters most are human relationships, that is what I am interested in telling in novels”, highlighted the author of The House of Spirits. Likewise, she was recognized as a “hopeless romantic”: “Love moves the world and gives life a beautiful flavor, and it is also essential for literature.”

The original idea for the book came after the death of Allende’s mother at the age of 98. Knowing that the two had had a very close relationship that had been reflected in the thousands of letters they exchanged, some friends suggested that she write a book about her mother’s life.

When she felt stronger after that loss, the author began purple Inspired by her mother, but also with a marked difference: the protagonist is a woman who supports herself and a large part of her family. “My mother was a beautiful, intelligent, ironic woman with a great business acumen, but she was educated to remain subservient to her husband. That is why he never achieved economic independence,” he tells reporters.

“Violet” by Isabel Allende

This epic and moving story of a woman whose life spans the most significant historical moments of the 20th century begins and ends with a pandemic. When he began, Allende did not have a detailed plan about who he would be or what exactly would happen to his character, although he was clear that he would be talking about an entire century, of those hundred years that his mother could have lived. Francisca, Isabel’s mother, had been born in 1920, at the time of the so-called Spanish flu, and died a year before the still-active coronavirus pandemic was declared.

The struggle of women for their liberation also has a decisive role in the book. Violeta is a woman who breaks stereotypes and can forge a future for herself, something that was denied to women of her time. Somehow, purple is not the story of Francisca Llona, but of what the author’s mother could have been, of what Isabel, her daughter, would have liked her to be.

In the novel, Allende covers almost a century of the life of a woman who is born into a conservative and wealthy Chilean family, which changes radically when she is left homeless due to the Great Depression. Some of the great events of history will shape her life: the fight for women’s rights, the rise and fall of tyrants and, as has been said, two pandemics.

Isabel Allende (Photo: EFE/Quique Garcia)
Isabel Allende (Photo: EFE/Quique Garcia)

Allende began to write purple in the third person, but “the tone of the novel began to flow when I realized that I had to write it in the first person; that’s where the genuine voice of the character appeared,” says the Chilean writer, “and it was as if the novel had already been written and all that was left to do was type it.”

In a letter addressed to a person she loves above all others – her grandson Camilo, whom she has raised since the day he was born – Violeta tells him that her life is worth telling, not so much because of her virtues. as for his sins. He thus recalls devastating love disappointments and passionate romances, moments of poverty and also of prosperity, terrible losses and immense joys.

A new political time in Chile

Allende rejoiced with the victory of Gabriel Boric, because “it is a young generation that assumes power” and pointed out: “In Chile, the old rogues of politics and the financial world have to go home or to an asylum”. “Furthermore, it is not just that this young man wins the presidency and appoints a cabinet with 14 women and 10 men, but that government is going to have to apply a new Constitution. And this new Constitution is an opportunity to ask ourselves what country we want,” said the Chilean writer.

Gabriel Boric, President of Chile (Photo: REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido)
Gabriel Boric, President of Chile (Photo: REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido)

In this sense, he expressed his expectation because “among the points that have been raised to draft the Constitution is absolute gender parity. The inclusion of everyone in its drafting has also been proposed, including indigenous peoples”. “You have to accept that Chile is a diverse country. There are also many points regarding the defense of nature that are new to us. And we must try to ensure that all of this is part of the country without damaging the economic system, which has brought progress to Chile, but very poorly distributed, which has created such an awful inequality people are furious,” he said.


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