My Invented Country
A highly personal memoir of exile and homeland, filled with the wit, melancholy and distinctive voice that have charmed readers of her fiction.
My Invented Country is a memoir about her native Chile that acknowledges the role of memory and nostalgia in shaping her life, her books, and her very connection to that most intimate place of origin. Allende revisits the imaginary Chile of her childhood and young adult years as well as the real one that exists today. She evokes the magnificent landscapes of the country, a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and indomitable spirit, and the politics, religion, myth and magic of her homeland that she carries with her even today. The book curls itself around two life–changing moments. The assassination of her uncle, Salvador Allende Gossens, on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a literary writer; and the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, on her newly adopted homeland. It speaks compellingly to immigrants, and to all of us, who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions.
"Nostalgia is my vice," admits Isabel Allende in My Invented Country. A question about nostalgia propels an exploration of her past, including the complicated history and politics of Chile, where she spent the better part of her childhood. Despite her strong connection to Chile, Allende says she has "been an outsider nearly all my life." Her stepfather was a diplomat, so her family moved quite frequently. In her travel diary, Allende compares everything to Chile, her "one eternal reference" point. Allende's novels-The House of the Spirits; Eva Luna; Daughter of Fortune; etc.-are of the sweeping epic variety, often historical and romantic, weaving in elements of North and South American culture. As with most fiction writers, Allende's work is inspired by personal experiences, and in this memoir-cum-study of her "home ground," the author delves into the history, social mores and idiosyncrasies of Chile, where she was raised, showing, in the process, how that land has served as her muse. Allende was born in Peru in 1942, but spent much of her childhood-and a significant portion of her adulthood-in Santiago (she now lives in California). She ruminates on Chilean women (their "attraction lies in a blend of strength and flirtatiousness that few men can resist"); the country's class system ("our society is like a phyllo pastry, a thousand layers, each person in his place"); and Chile's turbulent history ("the political pendulum has swung from one extreme to another; we have tested every system of government that exists, and we have suffered the consequences"). She readily admits her view is subjective-to be sure, she is not the average Chilean (her stepfather was a diplomat; her uncle, Salvador Allende, was Chile's president from 1970 until his assassination in 1973). And at times, her assessments transcend Chile, especially when it comes to comments on memory and nostalgia. This is a reflective book, lacking the pull of Allende's fiction but unearthing intriguing elements of the author's captivating history.Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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