Chapter 1 An Introduction to Displacement in Isabel Allende’s Fiction
In spite of Allende’s obvious talents, there is not a single ounce of origi- nality in the 300 pages of [Retrato en sepia]; one may read on, enthralled, but one never gets lost in another world in the way one does with the best books. — Ilan Stavans1 I am an eternal foreigner; the daughter of diplomats, a refugee, an immi- grant. I have started from scratch in a new place with a new language several times, so I am not attached to objects. — Isabel Allende2 Introduction: Unoriginal Sin? At first glance, critic Ilan Stavans’s scathing description of Chilean author Isabel Allende’s sixth novel, Retrato en sepia [Portrait in Sepia],3 published in 2000, may appear to be a strange point of departure for an examination of Allende’s fiction, but his comment is apposite for a number of reasons: 1 Ilan Stavans, ‘Do you remember?’, The Times, 5 October 2001, [accessed 18 June 2012]. 2 Isabel Allende, The Guardian, 14 April 2008, Section G2, p. 14, [accessed 23 July 2012]. 3 Isabel Allende, Retrato en sepia (Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 2000). Further references will appear parenthetically in the text. 4 Chapter 1 first, Stavans is one of many critics who consider Allende’s works a quali- fied success; while he acknowledges positive features such as her ability to tell stories, he nevertheless cites a lack of originality as one of the key failings of this novel. In Stavans’s eyes, the novel is engaging, but lacks an original, compelling or radically dif...
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