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Displacement in Isabel Allende’s Fiction, 1982–2000


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 4 Displacing Language: Secondary Orality and Silence in Eva Luna and Cuentos de Eva Luna


Some people can sing; others can run; I can tell stories. Storytelling is a way of preserving the memory of the past and keeping alive legends, myths, superstitions, and history that are not in the textbooks – the real stories of people and countries. — Isabel Allende1 If the author leaves events unexplained, the reader feels cheated. But if you explain too much, you explain away. — Hilary Mantel2 Introduction The carnivalesque reading of De amor y de sombra of fered in the preceding chapter highlighted an underlying coherence to a novel which many crit- ics had dismissed for its unhappy marrying together of regime abuses and hope. This chapter looks at the question of displacement from a linguis- tic perspective, and the opening epigraphs provide a useful indication of 1 Isabel Allende in interview with Alvin P. Sanof f, ‘Modern Politics, Modern Fables’, US News & World Report, 21 November 1988, in Conversations with Isabel Allende, p. 103. 2 Hilary Mantel, ‘Ghost Writing’, The Guardian, 28 July 2007, [accessed 18 June 2012]. 104 Chapter 4 the approach to this issue here: the first statement, by Allende, illustrates some of the key concerns underpinning her narrative, such as the primacy of storytelling, the crucial importance of recording and preserving the vibrant, though stif led, unof ficial and often unwritten histories of people removed either geographically or socially from the mainstream and the vitality of collective memory. The importance of storytelling for Allende is traced in two texts here, that is, her 1987 novel, Eva...

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