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Isabel Allende
Allende in Germany, 2015
Allende in Germany, 2015
Born Isabel Angélica Allende Llona
(1942-08-02) 2 August 1942 (age 80)
Lima, Peru
Language Spanish
Nationality Chilean
  • Chile
  • United States
Notable awards
Miguel Frías
(m. 1962; div. 1987)

William C. Gordon
(m. 1988; div. 2015)

Roger Cukras
(m. 2019)
Children Paula Frías Allende
Nicolás Frías Allende
Relatives Allende family

Isabel Angélica Allende Llona (Spanish pronunciation: [isaˈβel aˈʝende]; born in Lima, 2 August 1942) is a Chilean writer. Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the genre magical realism, is known for novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias, 2002), which have been commercially successful. Allende has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author." In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Allende's novels are often based upon her personal experience and historical events and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism. She has lectured and toured many U.S. colleges to teach literature. Fluent in English, Allende was granted United States citizenship in 1993, having lived in California since 1989, first with her American husband (from whom she is now divorced).

Personal life

Allende was born in Lima, Peru, the daughter of Francisca Llona Barros called "Doña Panchita" (the daughter of Agustín Llona Cuevas and Isabel Barros Moreira, of Portuguese descent) and Tomás Allende, who was at the time a second secretary at the Chilean embassy. Her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973.

In 1945, after Tomás left them, Isabel's mother relocated with her three children to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953. In 1953 Allende's mother married Ramón Huidobro and the family moved often. Huidobro was a diplomat appointed to Bolivia and Beirut. In Bolivia, Allende attended an American private school; and in Beirut, Lebanon, she attended an English private school. The family returned to Chile in 1958, where Allende was also briefly home-schooled. In her youth, she read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.

In 1970, Salvador Allende appointed Huidobro as ambassador to Argentina.

While living in Chile, Allende finished her secondary studies and met engineering student Miguel Frías whom she married in 1962. They had two children, a son and a daughter.

Reportedly, "Allende married early, into an Anglophile family and a kind of double life: at home she was the obedient wife and mother of two; in public she became, after a spell translating Barbara Cartland, a moderately well-known TV personality, a dramatist and a journalist on a feminist magazine."

From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, then in Brussels, and elsewhere in Europe. For a short time in Chile, she also had a job translating romance novels from English to Spanish. However, she was fired for making unauthorized changes to the dialogue of the heroines to make them sound more intelligent, as well as altering the Cinderella ending to allow the heroines to find more independence and do good in the world.

Allende's and Frías's daughter Paula was born in 1963; she died in 1992. In 1966, Allende again returned to Chile, where her son Nicolás was born that year.

Exile in Venezuela

In 1973, Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. Isabel found herself arranging safe passage for people on the "wanted lists", which she continued to do until her mother and stepfather narrowly escaped assassination. When she herself was added to the list and began receiving death threats, she fled to Venezuela, where she stayed for 13 years. It was during this time that Allende wrote her debut novel The House of the Spirits (1982). Allende has stated that her move from Chile made her a serious writer: "I don’t think I would be a writer if I had stayed in Chile. I would be trapped in the chores, in the family, in the person that people expected me to be." Allende believed that, being female in a patriarchal family, she was not expected to be a "liberated" person. Her history of oppression and liberation is thematically found in much of her fiction, where women contest the ideals of patriarchal leaders. In Venezuela she was a columnist for El Nacional, a major national newspaper. In 1978, she began a temporary separation from Miguel Frías. She lived in Spain for two months, then returned to her marriage.

Later life

Isabel Allende 2017-09-08
Allende speaks to the City Club of Cleveland, 8 September 2017.

She divorced her first husband, Miguel Frías, in 1987. During a visit to California on a book tour in 1988, Allende met her second husband, California attorney and novelist William C. "Willie" Gordon. They married in July 1988. In 1994, she was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit, the first woman to receive this honor. Allende resides in San Rafael, California. Most of her family lives nearby, with her son, his second wife, and her grandchildren just down the hill, in the house she and her second husband vacated. She separated from Gordon in April 2015.

In 2006 she was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. She presented the talk Tales of Passion at TED 2007. In 2008, Allende received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University for her "distinguished contributions as a literary artist and humanitarian." In 2014, Allende received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Harvard University for her contributions to literature.

In 2019 she married Roger Cukras, a lawyer from New York.

Although not as openly political as some of her contemporary writers, she expressed contempt for Donald Trump and his policies following his election in 2016, and she later endorsed Democrat Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election. She has also regularly defended the record of her father's cousin, Salvador Allende.


Allende started the Isabel Allende Foundation on 9 December 1996, in honor of her daughter, Paula Frías Allende, who fell into a coma after complications of the disease porphyria led to her hospitalization. Paula was 29 years old when she died in 1992. The foundation is "dedicated to supporting programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."


Girl Power at TED conference 2007 by jurvetson
Allende (in red, 3rd L to R), 2007, at TED in California, flanked (L to R) by June Cohen, Lakshmi Pratury and Tracy Chapman.

Beginning in 1967, Allende was on the editorial staff of Paula magazine and the children's magazine Mampato [es] from 1969 to 1974, where she later became the editor. She published two children's stories, "La Abuela Panchita" and "Lauchas y Lauchones", as well as a collection of articles, Civilice a Su Troglodita. She also worked in Chilean television production for channels 7 and 13 from 1970 to 1974. As a journalist, she once sought an interview with poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda agreed to the interview, and he told her that she had too much imagination to be a journalist and should be a novelist instead. He also advised her to compile her satirical columns in book form. She did so, and this became her first published book. In 1973, Allende's play El Embajador played in Santiago a few months before she was forced to flee the country due to the coup.

During her time in Venezuela, Allende was a freelance journalist for El Nacional in Caracas from 1976 to 1983 and an administrator of the Marrocco School in Caracas from 1979 to 1983.

In 1981, while in Caracas, Allende received a phone call informing her that her 99-year-old grandfather was near death, and she sat down to write him a letter, hoping to thereby "keep him alive, at least in spirit." The letter evolved into a book, The House of the Spirits (1982); this work intended to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship. The book was rejected by numerous Latin American publishers, but eventually published in Buenos Aires. The book soon ran to more than two dozen editions in Spanish and was translated into a score of languages. Allende was compared to Gabriel García Márquez as an author in the style known as magical realism.

Although Allende is often cited as a practitioner of magical realism, her works also display elements of post-Boom literature. Allende also holds to a very strict writing routine. She writes on a computer, working Monday to Saturday, 09:00 to 19:00 "I always start on 8 January", Allende stated; "a tradition she began in 1981 with the letter she wrote to her dying grandfather that would become The House of the Spirits."

Allende's book Paula (1995) is a memoir of her childhood in Santiago and the years she spent in exile. It is written as an anguished letter to her daughter. In 1991 an error in Paula's medication resulted in severe brain damage, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state. Allende spent months at Paula's bedside before learning that a hospital mishap had caused the brain damage. Allende had Paula moved to a hospital in California where she died on 6 December 1992.

Allende's novels have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold about 74 million copies. Her 2008 book, The Sum of Our Days, is a memoir. It focuses on her life with her family, which includes her grown son, Nicolás; second husband, William Gordon; and several grandchildren. A novel set in New Orleans, Island Beneath the Sea, was published in 2010. In 2011 came El cuaderno de Maya (Maya's Notebook), in which the setting alternates between Berkeley, California, and Chiloé in Chile, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada.


  • Novel of the Year (Chile, 1983)
  • Panorama Literario (Chile, 1983)
  • Author of the Year (Germany, 1984)
  • Book of the Year (Germany, 1984)
  • Grand Prix d'Evasion (France, 1984)
  • Grand Prix de la Radio Télévision Belge (Point de Mire, 1985)
  • Best Novel (Mexico, 1985)
  • Colima Literary Prize (Mexico, 1986)
  • Quality Paperback Book Club New Voice (United States; 1986 nominee)
  • Author of the Year (Germany, 1986)
  • XV Premio Internazionale I Migliori Dell'Anno (Italy, 1987)
  • Premio Mulheres a la Mejor Novela Extranjera (Portugal, 1987)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee (United States, 1987)
  • Library Journal's Best Book (United States, 1988)
  • Before Columbus Foundation Award (United States, 1989)
  • Orden al Mérito Docente y Cultural Gabriela Mistral (Chile, 1990)
  • XLI Bancarella Literary Prize (Italy, 1993)
  • Independent Foreign Fiction Award (England, June–July 1993)
  • Brandeis University Major Book Collection Award (United States, 1993)
  • Feminist of the Year Award, The Feminist; Majority Foundation (United States, 1994)
  • Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres distinction (France, 1994)
  • Critics' Choice (United States, 1996)
  • Books to Remember, American Library Assoc. (United States, 1996)
  • Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature (United States, 1996).
  • Malaparte Amici di Capri (Italy, 1998)
  • Donna Citta Di Roma (Italy, 1998)
  • Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (United States, 1998)
  • Sara Lee Foundation (United States, 1998)
  • Premio Iberoamericano de Letras José Donoso, University of Talca (Chile, 2003)
  • Premio Honoris Causa, Università di Trento en "lingue e letteratura moderne euroamericane" (Trento, Italy, May 2007)
  • Chilean National Prize for Literature (Chile, 2010)
  • Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction (USA, 2010)
  • Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award (Denmark, 2012)
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (United States, 2014)
  • Anisfield-Wolf Book Award: Lifetime Achievement (United States, 2017)
  • BBC 100 Women (United Kingdom, 2018)
  • National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (United States, 2018)
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College.



  • The House of the Spirits (1982) La casa de los espíritus
  • The Porcelain Fat Lady (1984) La gorda de porcelana
  • Of Love and Shadows (1985) De amor y de sombra
  • Eva Luna (1987) Eva Luna
  • Two Words (1989) Dos Palabras
  • The Stories of Eva Luna (1989) Cuentos de Eva Luna
  • The Infinite Plan (1991) El plan infinito
  • Daughter of Fortune (1999) Hija de la fortuna
  • Portrait in Sepia (2000) Retrato en sepia
  • City of the Beasts (2002) La ciudad de las bestias
  • Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004) El reino del dragón de oro
  • Zorro (2005) El Zorro: Comienza la leyenda
  • Forest of the Pygmies (2005) El bosque de los pigmeos
  • Ines of My Soul (2006) Inés del alma mía
  • Island Beneath the Sea (2010) La isla bajo el mar
  • Maya's Notebook (2011) El Cuaderno de Maya
  • Ripper (2014) El juego de Ripper
  • The Japanese Lover (2015) El amante japonés
  • In the Midst of Winter (2017) Más allá del invierno ISBN: 1501178156
  • A Long Petal of the Sea (2019) Largo pétalo de mar
  • Violeta (2022)


  • Paula (1994) Paula ISBN: 0060927216
  • Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (1998) Afrodita
  • My Invented Country: A Memoir (2003) Mi país inventado
  • The Sum of Our Days (2007) La suma de los días
  • The Soul of a Woman (2021) Mujeres del alma mía ISBN: 9780593355626
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