Question: Do you feel that male critics have been unfairly
harsh toward your work?
Isabel Allende: I think that every writer receives
criticism. It’s impossible to please everybody when you do anything
that is public you get good and bad reviews. And I don’t pay much
attention to the good reviews or the bad ones. I write what I have to
write. So, I don’t worry about that.
Now, there is some
pettiness in my country, for example, in Chile, because if anybody,
except a soccer player, is successful, everybody gets angry because they
think that one is stealing space or oxygen from everybody else. And
the truth is that if a writer is successful, you gain readers. It
benefits all the writers. It’s important for all the writers that as
many of us as possible be successful.
Question: Why do studies of Latin American literature focus chiefly
on male writers?
Isabel Allende: Because it’s only recently that women writers
have had a space in Latin America. In publishing, editing, teaching in
the universities, reviewers—all men. And the writers were like clubs
of... like male clubs where women were not accepted except if you were
some kind of poet or wrote children's books. Then that was... or
cookbooks, that role was accepted in women, nothing else. So, we were
kept in silence for a long time and women have been writing in Latin
America since Sor Juana Inés De la Cruz .
So, it’s really been a sort of conspiracy of the male patriarchy to keep
women mute. And now, more and more, because the publishers know that
more women than men read fiction, more women authors are being published
and now translated and their work is better known. But this is a
When I published "The House of the Spirits" in
1982, I was... people were saying in the reviews everywhere that I was
the only writer of the Latin American boom of literature. Women have
been writing forever, but nobody knew them.
Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Priya George