Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Interview with Isabel Allende

John Timpane interviews Isabel Allende.
Isabel Allende, as the world knows, writes her novels in Spanish. She looks translations over, but has "total faith in my translators."

So what, asks the unsuspecting, defenseless interviewer, can she do in Spanish that she can't do in English?

"Love!" she cries. "My husband would find me ridiculous if I tried to pant in English." Then she unleashes a big laugh in all languages.

A jest like that, against type, pointed, seasoned with good humor, holds the key to Allende, 67, one of the most popular writers in the world.

Her new novel, "Island Beneath the Sea" (Harper, $26.99), manages, like many Allende books, to frustrate easy classification.

It begins on the island that became home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Its main figure, Zarite, is born to an African slave who tries to kill her baby (to save her from a terrible life) and does kill herself. Known as Tete, the girl grows up as the slave of French sugarcane magnate Toulouse Valmorain.
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