Writing From The Belly with Isabel Allende

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Niece and goddaughter of former Chilean president Salvador Allende, Isabel Allende was forced to flee Chile after the 1973 military coup. She now lives in California, writing novels infused with deep knowledge and feeling about the human experience. Her gift for luxuriant sensuality comes through in this dialogue. "I'm so aware of death," she says. "I enjoy so much the things that I should enjoy ... with a feeling that they may be gone in five minutes." She tells the moving story of her daughter's death, and how the stories of people she meets find their way into her writing:  "Every book," she says, "is triggered by a very strong emotion that has been with me for a long time, and usually that emotion is painful. However, the process of writing is so joyful." It is this rich involvement with the heart and soul of humanity that lends depth to her life and writing, and truth to her fiction. She describes her writing process and philosophy, the differences between Latin American and U.S. family life, her attitude about death and her optimism for humanity's future. (hosted by Michael Toms)


Isabel Allende is a Chilean-American writer. She the niece and goddaughter of former Chilean president Salvador Allende. She was forced to flee Chile after the 1973 military coup. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

Isabel Allende’s books include: 

To learn more about the work of Isabel Allende go to www.isabelallende.com.

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Insights on the process of writing a novel
  • The value of criticism
  • The importance of telling stories
  • The role of family in Latin America
  • Pain vs. suffering as a source of inspiration in writing
  • The fascinating way fact and fiction merge in Allende’s life
  • Allende’s thoughts on coping with death
  • The relationship between writer and reader
  • The making of the movie House of Spirits
  • Valuable tips for writers on writing
  • Journalism vs. fiction

Host:   Michael Toms           Interview Date: 5/17/1993       Program Number: 2384

Music Playlist

From Album: Give & Take
Artist: Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel
1993 Narada Lotus #ND601036

Opening Essay: Track 01 La Fogata
Music Break 3: Track 11 The Children’s Garden

From Album: Dias y Flores
Artist: Silvio Rodriguez
1975 Hannibal/Rykodisc #HNCD-1322

Music Break 1: Track 04 La Verguenza (Shame)
Music Break 2: Track 06 Pequeña Serenata Diurna (Little Daily Serenade)
Music Break: End of program Track 06 Pequeña Serenata Diurna (Little Daily Serenade) (reprise)