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"I fear the world that my grandchildren will inherit"

By Cristina Hernández-Espinoza*

War can no longer resolve any problems and it leaves in its wake the destruction of the Earth, says Chilean author Isabel Allende. "I take comfort in knowing that the children of today have greater ecological awareness," she said in an exclusive interview with Tierramérica in the U.S. city of San Francisco, where she presented her latest book "My Invented Country".

SAN FRANCISCO - "I fear the world that my grandchildren will inherit," says Chilean writer Isabel Allende, whose fame has expanded beyond Latin America to the point that she is now one of the world's most widely read authors.

The war in Iraq, which she has followed from her home in the United States, a place she calls her "new country", causes her great emotional turmoil because of the vast human and environmental devastation it is leaving in its wake. "It just can't be that we continue to go to war," she says, indignant.

Allende, now 60, lost her native Chile on a Tuesday -- Sep. 11, 1973, to be exact -- when Gen. Augusto Pinochet led a military coup that ultimately condemned her to exile. Although she wanted to return, so much time had passed by the time the dictatorship ended in 1990. Today her home is California.

The author of "The House of the Spirits", which launched her to international fame, defines fiction as a series of lies that are born out of an essential truth.

She spoke with Tierramérica in the California city of San Francisco where she was promoting her latest book "My Invented Country", which is a reflection on nostalgia and belonging.

Q: What do you see as being the impacts of the war launched by the U.S.-British-led coalition against Iraq?
A: I am against any armed conflict because of the deaths of thousands of mostly innocent people, especially women and children. But also because of the destruction that is left in the earth. There are mines planted that explode after the war is over, there is radioactivity and all sorts of contamination produced by the use of weapons. War can no longer resolve any problems. Humanity has evolved enough and there exist means of technology and information and the connections necessary to resolve conflicts through negotiation, compromise, dialogue and diplomacy. It just can't be that we continue to go to war.

Q: Are you worried about the world that your grandchildren will inherit?
A: Yes, I am very afraid. But I take comfort in knowing that the children of today have greater ecological awareness… much more than we adults have. When I was a girl, we lived with the terror of the atomic bomb, that there was going to be a nuclear explosion and the world was going to end. That was the terror of the Cold War. Today it has been replaced by fear of the destruction of the planet. Children think that we are destroying it. For example, my grandchildren are worried about not recycling paper or wasting water. That is an awareness that I didn't have.

Q: In "My Invented Country" you cover your childhood and adolescence. What purpose did this novel serve for you?
A: It has brought me back to Chile. The magical country of my childhood, of my youth, which I abandoned after the military coup 30 years ago. I have not lived in Chile since, but I carry it with me. It is a mythical country more than a real one, the country of memory, the country of Pablo Neruda, of the forests, volcanoes, pristine lakes; the country I remember and carry inside me.

Q: What path did you have to follow to reach the point that you now call California your home and Chile the land of your nostalgia?
A: I left Chile after the military coup and went to Venezuela, where I lived 13 years in exile. They weren't bad years, but I was always looking southwards, thinking that I was going to return to Chile. In 1987 I came to the United States on a book promotion tour and that's when I met the man who is now my husband. Two years later the dictatorship in Chile fell. I had waited 17 years. But my family and my life were here and I didn't go back. It has been a long but satisfying trajectory. And I have at my fingertips what is happening in Chile. It is like living in two worlds.

Q: Nowadays you are writing for young readers. How have you approached this challenge?
A: I just finished the third book of a trilogy for young people. The first is "City of the Beasts", which takes place in the Amazon, the second is "The Kingdom of the Golden Dragon", set in the Himalayas, soon to be published, and the third is called "Forest of the Pygmies", which unfolds in Equatorial Africa. I can say that writing for young readers is as difficult as doing so for adults. The challenges are the same.

* Cristina Hernández-Espinoza is a Tierramérica contributor.

Copyright © 2007 Tierramérica. Todos los Derechos Reservados

Isabel Allende / Photo credit: Archives of Proceso magazine.
Isabel Allende / Photo credit: Archives of Proceso magazine.

External Links

Official Isabel Allende website

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