By Isabel Allende
Translated by Frances Riddle
“There are always calamities in this country, and it’s not hard to connect them with some life event,” 100-year-old Violeta writes of a shadowy character in Isabel Allende’s new novel. Violeta could easily describe the epic framing her own life, which was also fraught with calamity: a ruined fortune, a turbulent marriage interspersed with love affairs, family intrigues and friends for more than a century, all fending off political upheaval in her hometown, an unnamed Latin American country.
Driven by pandemics – the Spanish flu and the Covid crisis – “Violeta” chronicles the awakening of feminism between two oppressive forces, the state and the domestic sector, in passages whose breadth and breadth absolutely punctuated by occasional, explanatory dialogues. When Violeta drops a subtle callback to “House of the Spirits,” revealing that she’s related to its protagonist, one can covet the creative details that make the first novel Allende’s hand became an icon of post-boom Latin American literature: “Grandma Nívea … was beheaded in a horrible car accident and her head was lost in a field; there was an aunt who communicated with spirits and a family dog that grew and grew until it was the size of a camel.” This novel abandons classic stories such as so to back the title realism in a stylistically simple translation; no more camel dogs, just Violeta’s captivating expressionless gaze as she recounts the brutality of the coup fascist, her anger at the disappearance of her son, a political exile, and her strained relationship with his father, whom she later discovers. , may have had a hand in both.
This middle section, the novel’s best book, chronics the events leading up to dictatorship in a Chile-like country, with a Pinochet-like dictator, in free, gently collected prose narrow focus on class and the gender tensions that take place in everyday life. Violeta offers humorous reproaches and pointless musings – she dislikes children (“the only good thing about children is that they grow up fast”), resentful of men whose “success because” she (“while he researched, experimented, wrote… I took care of the household expenses and saved up”), found her marriage stifling (“not as peaceful as life in the past”). a nunnery”) and applies double standards to her as “adulteress, concubine, unruly lover”.
In the end, as Violeta considers her passive collusion with the regime, amassing wealth, and living a comfortable life while a country around her bleeds, I long for discernment. so. Violeta’s sometimes nave colonial lens leads to a reckless romanticism: “The mix of races is fascinating,” she wrote earnestly of an acquaintance of the mestiza. She praises her nephew’s missionary work in the Congo “in a community that’s nothing more than a pile of trash before you get there,” while acknowledging her ignorance (“I know nothing about Africa… I am incapable of distinguishing one country from another”) fails to recognize the saviorism and realism behind her praise. Violeta’s calculations led to the development of a foundation to support domestic violence survivors – but a conclusion that “if you really want to help others, you’ll need money” is circular logic. round like a drop of blood—the water-soaked altar quietly crept away from the page after carefully re-creating the political graveyards that haunted the Latin American psyche.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/books/review/violeta-isabel-allende.html Book Review: ‘Violeta,’ by Isabel Allende