A Global Writer in a Global Genre

Like magic realism, Isabel Allende’s life has transcended borders.
  • Transcript


Question: Why did you choose to move to the U.S. and become a citizen?

Isabel Allende: Yes, I came to the United States because I fell in love and I forced my guy—I forced him into marriage.  And so I became a resident.  And then I realized that I couldn’t bring my children.  I couldn’t sponsor my children if I wasn’t a citizen.  So I became a citizen.  But by then, I had learned to love this country; I have received a lot from this country.  I'm very critical, but at the same time I'm very grateful.  And I want to give back.  I belong here.

Do you now consider yourself an American writer?

Isabel Allende: I’m a writer.  In Latin America they say I’m a Latin-American writer because I also write in Spanish and my books are translated, but I am an American citizen and my books are published here, so I'm also an American writer. 

Are you a writer in exile?

Isabel Allende: No.  Exile is something very specific.  Exile is when circumstances beyond your control, you were forced to leave your land and you cannot return.  That is very specifically to be in exile.  And I was a political refugee in exile for 13 years in Venezuela.  And then I moved to the United States and a year later we had democracy in Chile and I could return to Chile, but I didn’t because I was married, I had made the choice to stay here.  So, now I am an immigrant.  I’m not an exile.

Do you consider yourself a magic realist writer?

Isabel Allende: I think that life is very mysterious and there are many things we don’t know.  And there are elements of magic realism in every culture, everywhere, read Toni Morrison, read South African authors, it’s not only Latin-American.  It's just accepting that we don’t know everything and everything is possible.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Priya George