Are Latin American Critics Sexist?

Why female writers are so often overlooked in Latin American literary studies.
  • Transcript


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.

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 recent thing. 

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