Interview: Amarildo Topalis
Isabel Allende is one of the first latin-american writers to be known world wide, as 20 of her books were translated in 35 languages. Her books were turned into movies which were and still are very popular. She is not only famous for her contribution to literature, but also a human being who, through her organization, offers help to women and children in need. Let’s find out what really makes her happy.
You have sold more than 65 million copies of your 20 books, they’ve been translated into 35 languages, you have gained many awards and honors. Many of your books have become movies. Do all of these guarantee a happy life?
Nothing external can guarantee a happy life. Hapiness is a state of mind. There are terrible circumstances in which happiness is not possible, but in any normal life, for most normal human beings, happiness is a choice. I have made the choice to be always grateful and content ; the result is that most of the time I am happy.
I have read the “The house of the Spirits,” and I have seen the homonymous film -with a great casting and performances- from Jeremy Irons to Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas. Every time I watch it, I tend to think that something is missing -not an uncommon sense when you need to compare books to films. What is your opinion on that?
A book is a private conversation between thw writer and the reader. The author proposes a story and the reader interprets it according to his or her experience, memories, imagination, feelings, etc. Not everybody reads the same book, it changes with every reader. A movie, on the other hand, is given to the audience complete. The viewer can’t add anything to the images on the screen, he or she has no saying in the story, is just a passive observer. Literature is subtle, it plays with the reader’s mind. To film The House of the Spirits the director, Bille August, had to eliminate a whole generation of characters and simplify the story.
You are a politicized person and this is indicated by the establishment of the Isabel Allende Foundation in 1995. How did you come up with this idea and how do you feel now that you have accomplished your initial goals?
I created my foundation to honor my daughter Paula, whose premature death broke my heart. I dedicate a significant percentage of my income to the foundation. Our mission is to empower women and children in need. I am not discouraged by our ambitious goals and my limited resources; I help as much as I can and I will keep doing it for as long as I can work. When I see how much good can be done with limited funds, I feel encouraged and proud to be able to help.
When you hear the word Chile, what comes to your mind?
A feeling of belonging. I see in my mind the landscape of my country, the hills and mountains, the abrupt Pacific coast, the people. I can hear the accent of Spanish with a Chilean accent. I can smell bread, peaches and flowers. I remember my childhood and the long summers at the beach.
What is the most important thing you have accomplished so you far?
Give birth to my two children, and hold my daughter in my arms at the time of her death.
Along with the financial crisis, a humanitarian one is also a fact, at a global level. Have you identified the reasons for this? What kind of future do you foresee for our society?
I am not a politician or an economist, my view on this matter is not important. I feel that humanity has gone astray. It is impossible for the world economy to grow forever, just as it is impossible for people to keep on consuming more and more unnecessary goods. Capitalism and consumerism are brutal, they create tremendous disparity between the rich and the rest of the people, they are too costly for humanity and the planet. On the other hand, it has been proven that communism doesn’t work either. It is time for a new political vision and for original economic solutions. What do we want for the future? We want a world where justice, opportunities and resources for everybody, peace and beauty prevail. But we are not headed in that direction, are we?
What else could we expect from you as an author? Any surprises?
I often surprise myself. I never know what my next project will be. Every book is like a secret seed in my belly that suddenly starts to grow and grow until I have to notice it. Sometimes I start a book without any idea of the story or the characters. I just show up in front of my computer and eventually something happens and slowly the story starts to unfold. My recent project is a love novel: The Japanese Lover. It has been published in Spanish in May and later this year it will come out in other languages.