William C. Gordon - Bio
Chilean author Isabel Allende talks to Janet Hawley about her new memoir, then remarriage to Willie Gordon, an American social justice lawyer with . Allende and Gordon wed, but their relationship was sorely tested in the. In , after 27 years of marriage, Isabel Allende separated from her second husband, the attorney and writer Willie Gordon and moved into a. She renewed family relationships and celebrated Pinochet's loss of supreme power to With details drawn from the life of Willie Gordon, Allende completed her third view shrank to a twelve-bed ward and a tangle of monitors and lab tests.
Her mother, Francisca, is 95, and her stepfather is I don't feel that my brain is ageing. But I don't have the energy that I used to have, and my back hurts. She retreats into her cabana, clearing the office of everything but the props she needs to inspire the plot.
She lights candles, meditates, and calls on the spirits of her daughter and grandparents. When I start, it will be lost and confused, and the tone and rhythm aren't right. The story picks up sooner or later, and I get the tone of the book, and the narrative voice, and it starts to flow.
The story was inside me. The writer "became a feminist before I even knew what the word meant". Some of the proceeds of her books go into the Isabel Allende Foundation run by her daughter-in-law, a charity that has funded plus projects to empower women and girls.
Many, many young women don't want to call themselves feminists. They see them as butch dykes. I never thought about my father. I did not know anything about him for twenty-eight years and I never thought it could be him. All I said was that it was not my brother. The man on the table in front of her had no relevance in her life: I felt a total void.
University of Texas Press, But it was not easy. With the disappearance of her husband, Francisca was left with a stack of bills and little money to pay them. The consul intervened, calling on the family and making it possible for them to come to Chile. For young Isabel Allende, it was the end of a short chapter of her life that would be lost forever. As she has written: Her childhood world would later provide her with great inspiration for her writing.
Allende grew up in a household dominated by her grandfather Agustin, as was common among Chilean families of that time. Agustin was the patriarch of the family, and he relished this role.
He held strong opinions and beliefs and did not hesitate to make them known. His impact on young Isabel was dramatic: Memories of Youth My grandfather. He lived nearly a century with never a sign of a single loose screw. On my desk I have a photograph of my grandfather. He looks like a Basque peasant. He grew old strengthened by intelligence and reinforced by experience. He died with a full head of white hair and blue eyes as piercing as those of his youth.
He spoke in proverbs, he knew hundreds of folk tales, and recited long poems from memory. This formidable man gave me the gift of discipline and love for language; without them I could not devote myself to writing today. Among other things, he tried to instill in his young granddaughter a love of Chile, her native country. He always said that just as Romans live among ruins and fountains without seeing them, we Chileans live in the most dazzling country on the planet without appreciating it.
There was her grandmother, whose influence was profound, but extremely different from that of her grandfather, Agustin.
Isabel Allende: on love and loss
Isabel Barros Moreira was a self-proclaimed psychic and seer. My grandmother had extrasensory powers: She had a group of friends, the sisters Mora, who were quite famous at the time. Allende spent many years of her childhood living in his home, where he taught her to cherish her native Chile. My grandmother did all this with a great sense of humor, openly, without allowing it to become macabre, solemn, or dark. She abhorred anything vulgar or crude.
She remembers how difficult it was to find a personal space growing up, with so many relatives and servants all around the mansion.
But she enjoyed time alone, time spent playing by herself, when she created and told herself stories, saying them outloud. Reading was important to her, even as a young girl.
But where could she find a quiet place to immerse herself in her books? At night, she would take a flashlight to bed and read under her bedcovers while everyone else was asleep.
During the day, she scurried off to a special part of the big house, where no one else wanted to go, finding a quiet place for reading and play: The family cellar was a full excavation, taking up as much space as any other floor in the house. The adults kept the cellar door locked. But Isabel found her way in by crawling through a window.
For light, she took candles out of the kitchen and brought along the flashlight she used to read under her bedsheets. The cellar was made up of multiple rooms, all with dirt floors. For most children, it would be a creepy place. She remembers that spiders, roaches, and mice scurried everywhere. Isabel spent countless hours in the family cellar, finding new worlds in books and in her imagination.
A cavernous silence reigned and even my most tentative sigh sounded as strong as a gale. It was a beautiful world where the imagination knew no limits. Even as she was being introduced to the characters that filled the pages of the books she read, young Isabel transferred her literary discoveries into her own form of storytelling.
She began to tell stories to her brothers, Pancho and Juan. She and her brothers played games and climbed trees. But Isabel loved her time alone, taking the characters of fiction she discovered in the pages of books and transferring them from their Memories of Youth two-dimensional place on the page to the three-dimensional world of theater.
She would create figures fashioned out of toothpicks and act, placing the figures on her own miniature stage. They were, after all, just children. It was all part of creating Isabel Allende the writer. There were games and secret places and wild imaginings.
There were special people—a loving mother, a spiritualist grandmother, and a Chilean grandfather who guided with a strict hand, yet gave of himself to his family. It was not perfect. As Isabel Allende described it: As Isabel remembers, Huidobro was the ugliest of all the men who were interested in her mother. Despite his appearance, their love provided Isabel with her last memory spent in the shadowy, candlelit cellar of her early youth: He remained in government service, receiving assignments that took him out of the country, to Peru, then Bolivia.
Whenever he was away working in a foreign office, he and Francisca exchanged letters. He tried to get an annulment from his wife. Francisca received her own annulment quickly, but, according to Isabel: She and young Isabel are pictured here in a photograph taken in As Allende later explained: He was my true father.
We traveled widely with him and he was the one who formed me. I owe him my intellectual inquisitiveness, my curiosity, and my discipline.
He had a Jesuit upbringing, and somehow he transmitted that: He has been the only person in my life with whom I can talk about absolutely everything and without a mask: I can talk about those topics without worrying about hurting or bothering him. He had a car, a Ford, which was actually only half his, since he bought it with a friend. Huidobro had the car on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and every other Sunday.
On those Sundays, he would take the family out for drives in the country. Isabel recalls one drive to a rural area near a mental institution for nonviolent patients called The Open Door.
Interview: Isabel Allende | Books | The Guardian
At one of the orchards near the mental facility, Huidobro took the children, and soon Isabel and her siblings were clambering up in the branches of apricot trees heavy with fruit. Some of the patients came out to greet the family, and the children cowered in fear.
But Huidobro knew many of the patients by name and spoke to them, assuring the children that there was nothing to be afraid of. The family picked apricots, the children tossed them at one another in play, and each child ate his or her fill until their stomachs cramped. That day, for the first time ever, I realized that life can be generous.
I had never experienced anything similar with my grandfather, or any other member of my family, all of whom believed that paucity is a blessing and avarice a virtue. My grandfather had a fortune, but I never suspected that until much later. At the most difficult moments of my life. When asked why, she explained: People who have common sense are not good protagonists for novels, but they are fantastic to live with.
The blow was crushing because her grandmother was special, with unique powers. By the time Isabel turned 11, her life was a whirlwind of new places and schools. Her stepfather, through his work in the Chilean diplomatic service, was assigned to Bolivia, where the family took up residence in the capital city of La Paz. When Isabel was 11, her family moved to La Paz, Bolivia, which is pictured here. Isabel ran afoul of her teacher quickly. Angry and hurt, she soon noticed a boy who was being punished in the opposite corner of the hall.
According to Allende, two major events occurred in the hall. It was a day worthy of mention in her memoi, Paula. The year was and this move was even more dramatic than the relocation from Santiago to La Paz. Francisca packed up her children again and, as Huidobro flew alone to Paris, then to Lebanon, the family rode another train, this time down a mountain.
From a Chilean port, Isabel and her family took passage on an Italian ocean liner that delivered them to Genoa, Italy. Then they took a bus ride to Rome. Letters to and from Chile took months to arrive. Huidobro did not make much money and expenses were always tight, making a trip to the movies or to an ice-skating rink a luxury. There was also the problem of language. In Lebanon, people spoke French and Arabic, and Isabel and her brothers struggled to learn these languages well enough to speak to people on the streets.
Life in Beirut was beyond exotic for Isabel. On Saturdays, some of the housewives in the North American colony liked to wash their cars wearing shorts and bare midriff tops. The locals rented chairs and sold coffee and syrupy sweets to the spectators lined up in rows on the opposite side of the street.
The goal of the school was to instill discipline and build character. The curriculum included learning English and studying the Bible. The future novelist remembers memorizing and reciting an endless litany of Bible verses.
Violence and insurrection, fueled by a developing and heated Arab nationalism, rocked the city, and its streets became a battleground. To restore peace, U. President Dwight Eisenhower dispatched U. Marines were sent to the area to help bring order to the city after Lebanese Muslims rebelled against the standing government. John was able to get permission for it to pass through the Marine checkpoint. John was forced to close the school. By then, her only student was Isabel Allende.
Isabel was maturing, growing from a girl into a woman. Embassy, hosted by the U. Isabel remembers the afternoon fondly: In several hours I learned everything from the Charleston to the samba. During the summer ofU. From her apartment building, Isabel could see fighting in the street.
There were hundreds of young American soldiers in their uniforms, who all looked alike to the teenage Isabel, with their short hair and tattoos. She spoke to some of them, trying to understand their style of English. From one of them she received her first kiss: I have no idea which one kissed me. HarperCollins Publishers, She discovered the classic book A Thousand and One Nights.
It was there, through a prism of extraordinary sights and experiences, that Isabel filed away images of places and people that she would later resurrect in her fiction.
Officials in Lebanon were warning foreign diplomats to send their families out of the country. Marines received orders to return to their ships and leave the Middle East. Isabel and her brothers were soon placed onboard one of the last commercial flights out of violence-torn Beirut. On the plane, Isabel wrote a letter to her mother, uncertain when she would see her again.
Within a few months, Ramon was reassigned, and he and Francisca made their way out of Lebanon to Turkey. I lacked the most elemental knowledge for functioning in the world. Although she had lived in Lebanon, she was unable to locate the Middle Eastern country on a map.
The incredible life of Isabel Allende - Telegraph
The lessons with her grandfather did not come easy for either of them, but, as with any good schooling, it had its rewards: He taught me history and geography, showed me maps. Made me read Chilean writers, corrected my grammar and handwriting. As a teacher, he was short on patience but long on severity; my errors made him red with anger, but if he was content with my work he would reward me with a wedge of camembert cheese, which he ripened in his armoire; whenever he opened that door, the odor of stinking army boots flooded the neighborhood.
I believe we had a mutual liking and respect for one another. The old man took the opportunity to tell his granddaughter the things he wanted her to know.
Their time together made Isabel appreciate her heritage: Isabel soon started to like one of them. I think people who are depressed fall in love with the darkness and start spiralling down — and when you live with somebody in that state, there is no way that you can escape the black cloud over the house. He starts unpacking cartons of orange juice.
Gordon, a lawyer and crime writer, introduces himself.
Isabel Allende (The Great Hispanic Heritage)
We have somehow survived. His attention span is 11 minutes, mine is 11 hours. I was going to do all the work and he was going to get half the credit. My grandfather would pay for what was necessary but my mother did not even have the cash to buy us an ice cream. I wanted to be like my grandfather because my mother had a terrible life and he had all the privileges and the power and the freedom and the car — I think that was the moment I started to rebel against all male authority: I was so angry and my mother was very worried because she thought I was never going to catch a husband.
Unlike her mother, Allende was determined to work. I think it was a reaction against seeing my mother as a victim. She is 93, she lives in Chile and we still write to each other every day. Before the success of The House of the Spirits, female writers were ignored systematically.