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Author Wed Oct 30 2013

Isabel Allende Visits the Harold Washington Library

Isabel_Allende_Thumbnail.jpg"You should always have a phallic microphone," joked Isabel Allende as she switched out a dead lavalier microphone for a handheld one. So began Allende's half-hour talk at the Harold Washington Library on Tuesday, Oct 22. Allende was in town to accept the Chicago Public Library Foundation's Carl Sandburg Literary Award. Allende, whose 19 books have been translated into 35 languages and have sold 57 million copies around the world, was interviewed by Univision's Angelica Atondo.

Perhaps the most personally influential book for Allende is Paula, which Allende described as the most memorable book she has produced, "written with tears and blood." It was written as her daughter Paula was in a coma, never to wake up, due to complications from the disease porphyria. Coincidentally, Allende's talk took place on Paula's birthday. While Allende generally considers herself a happy person, she maintained that her kind of sadness at losses such as Paula's death is "a softness of the heart that is always under the surface." Allende has received thousands of letters in response to Paula, and has started a foundation in Paula's honor that focuses on reproductive rights, healthcare, and "the poorest of the poor, illegal immigrants."

Allende acknowledged that while the world is a sometimes a sad place, a sense of humor is one way to make it a brighter. However, she worries that the humor from her native Chile doesn't translate well into English. It's too dark and not politically correct, especially in California, where she has resided since 1989. Allende relayed the story of how when dogs training as service animals for the blind do not pass the final test, they are put up for adoption. Allende requested one of the rejected dogs, and received a letter from a sensitive writer reminding her that the dogs are not rejected; they have simply made a career change.

Allende ended her talk by reading from her latest work, Ripper, her first foray into mystery writing. Attending a mystery writers' conference with "the loveliest people, usually these middle aged ladies in Birkenstocks...who only talk about autopsies and murders and how to dispose of cadavers" not only proved a quick education for Allende, but gave her the skills "so I could kill anybody and never get caught."

The interview is available in its entirety on Univision's website. (Though the website is in Spanish, the interview is in English.)

Image courtesy of Isabel Allende's website

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