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Displacement in Isabel Allende’s Fiction, 1982–2000

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Mel Boland

This book explores the concept of displacement in the fiction produced by the Chilean writer Isabel Allende between 1982 and 2000. Displacement, understood in the author’s analysis to encompass social, geographical, linguistic and cultural phenomena, is argued to play a consistently central role in Allende’s fictional output of this period. Close readings of Allende’s texts illustrate the abiding importance of displacement and reconcile two apparently contradictory trends in her writing: as the settings of her fiction have become more international, questions of individual identity have gained in importance. This discussion employs displacement as a means of engaging with critical debates both on Allende’s individual texts and on her status as an original writer. After examining in detail the seven works of fiction written by Allende during this period, the book concludes with reflections on the general trajectory of her work in this genre.

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Chapter 2 Local Development and Displacement: Esteban Trueba’s Experiences in Las Tres Marías in La

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casa de los espíritus Introduction This chapter looks in detail at Isabel Allende’s 1982 novel La casa de los espíritus, and focuses in particular on the somewhat strained relationship between Esteban Trueba and the community of campesinos living on his family’s country estate, and former model of patriarchal power, Las Tres Marías. This analysis draws on recent research carried out in the field of Development Studies, and in particular on the recognition of local communities and local knowledge; four key issues raised in relation to this research, to be elaborated upon in due course, provide the basis for an exploration of Trueba’s personal trajectory through the novel. Here it is argued that Trueba’s approach to developing Las Tres Marías, when compared to real-life examples taken from Development Studies, is fun- damentally f lawed and inextricably linked with displacement. The threat of displacement – that is, eviction from the estate – for non-compliance and Trueba’s unrelenting unwillingness to accept the campesinos as equals – or at times even as humans – sow the seeds for future problems in his relationship with them and, indeed, with his own family. An inter- esting, additional form of displacement in the text is also found in the character of Trueba himself; it is also suggested in this chapter that he constantly battles against his own fundamental sense of societal displace- ment and of not truly belonging anywhere. His ef forts at self-develop- ment and self-improvement proceed through a form of self-displacement 36 Chapter 2 and...

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