‘Isabel’: The Life Story of Chilean Writer Isabel Allende Hits HBO Max
HBO Max’s Pa’lante project presents Isabel, a three-part mini-series that tells the life story of magical realist writer Isabel Allende: her struggles with sexism, political conflicts, motherhood and grief.
A representative of the Latin America magical realism, writer Isabel Allende has a life story that is as rich and compelling as her own fiction tales. And that is probably why she has written about her own life and family so many times. Political conflicts, personal drama, love and magic have surrounded her all of her life. The child of a diplomat and niece of the then future Chilean president, Isabel grew up to become a journalist, a feminist writer, mother of two, and, then, one of the most important Spanish-speaking writers of the last decades.
- When? From March 12, 2021.
- Where? On HBO Max!
- Who? Produced by Isabel Miquel, directed by Rodrigo Basáez, written by Jonathan Cuchacovich, with Chilean actress Daniela Ramírez in the role of Isabel Allende.
A Life in Three Acts
Through simultaneous narrations of different moments of Allende’s life, we learn from the writer’s childhood in the 40s era when her father, diplomat Tomás Allende, abandoned his family; her own motherhood and her first steps in journalism in the late 1960’s in women’s issues magazine Paula; her struggles during Pinochet’s coup in 1973; her exile in Venezuela and her first years as a novelist; and, finally, her daughter Paula’s health problems and eventual death many years later, when Allende was becoming a consecrated writer.
The mini-series, produced in Chile, is divided into three 1-hour long episodes, “The Prize of Liberty”, “The Devil in the Mirror” and “The Spirits”. The first chapter focuses on her childhood and her later dual life as a feminist writer for Paula magazine and as a traditional wife and mother at home. The episode also shows Pinochet coup d’état that started in 1973 and that would last until 1990. At this point, we see some real footage of the streets of Santiago of the time.
The second chapter focuses on Isabel Allende’s exile in Venezuela during Pinochet’s military regime in Chile. It is there where she wrote The House of Spirits, her first magical realism novel, that was published in 1982 and quickly achieved great success. Finally, the series’ finale moves forward to the time when Isabel, a now-consecrated writer, has to face her daughter Paula’s disease and eventual death in 1992. The series definitely leaves room for a continuation, since almost 3 decades of Allende’s biography are not covered in this narration.
Pa’lante: A New HBO Project for Latin America
Streaming platform HBO Max is releasing a new project aimed to Latin America. ‘Pa’lante!’ (which could be translated as ‘Forward!’ and is a common expression in many Latin American countries) presents itself as “a platform for the creative heart of the burgeoning Latinx culture.”
This audience initiative intends to give room to new voices and to put culturally relevant shows across HBO Max for Latinxs under the spotlight. “For more than a decade we’ve been developing creative, audience-first campaigns that strategically engage Latinx, Black, Asian-American and LGBTQ+ audiences,” explained Jackie Gagne, Senior Vice President of Multicultural Marketing at WarnerMedia; “With the launch of HBO Max Pa’lante! we are creating a home for Latinx viewers and a community committed to nurturing Latino voices and sparking provocative conversations.”
The Pa’lante! initiative will expand HBO Latino. The cable channel will continue to be available within HBO TV subscription. The plan is that, together with the ‘Pa’lante’ rebranding, the channel’s content will reach more people.
Isabel Allende: Biography
Isabel Allende is Chilean, but was born in 1942 in Peru, since her father, Tomás Allende, worked as a secretary at the Chilean embassy in Lima. After her father abandoned Isabel, her two siblings and her mother, they relocated to Chile in 1945. Isabel and her family moved a lot during her childhood and young adulthood. They spent time in Bolivia and Lebanon, where Isabel attended American an English private schools. They briefly returned to Chile in 1958 and then she spent some time in Europe, working at the FAO in Brussels.
She married her first husband, Miguel Frías, in 1962. They had two children, Paula (1963) and Nicolás (1966). In 1967, she started writing for women’s issues magazine Paula and, a few years later, for children’s magazine Mampato, where she managed to become the editor. She also worked in TV production.
In 1973, when Isabel’s uncle Salvador Allende, then president of Chile, was overthrown in a coup d’état led by Augusto Pinochet, Isabel helped political targets find their way out of the country. Eventually, she and her family became a target themselves, so they were forced to flee to Venezuela. There, she lived for 13 years and it’s where she wrote her famous book The House of the Spirits (1982), that would later be adapted into the 1993 Hollywood film starring Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder and Antonio Banderas. In Venezuela, she also worked as a columnist for newspaper El Nacional.
Allende got divorced in 1987. The following year, in California, she met her second husband, attorney “Willie” Gordon. In 1992, her daughter Paula fell into a coma due to complications of porphyria. She died at age 29. Her mother dedicated a book, Paula (1994) and created a foundation in her honor, that supports the rights of women and children.
Isabel Allende lives up to this day in California with most of her family, and possesses the American nationality. In 2019, at age 77, she married for the third time; this time, with Roger Cukras, a New York lawyer. Her novels have sold millions of copies and have been translated into more than 40 languages, and she has received dozens of awards and merits, making her one of the top Latinx literary exponents of the last century.
Isabel Allende: Books
- The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus) – 1982
- The Porcelain Fat Lady (La gorda de porcelana) – 1984
- Of Love and Shadows (De amor y de sombra) – 1985
- Eva Luna (Eva Luna) – 1987
- Two Words (Dos palabras) – 1989
- The Stories of Eva Luna (Cuentos de Eva Luna) – 1989
- The Infinite Plan (El plan infinito) – 1991
- Daughter of Fortune (Hija de la fortuna) – 1999
- Portrait in Sepia (Retrato en sepia) – 2000
- City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias) – 2002
- Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (El reino del dragón de oro) – 2004
- Zorro (El Zorro: Comienza la leyenda) – 2005
- Forest of the Pygmies (El bosque de los pigmeos) – 2005
- Ines of My Soul (Inés del alma mía) – 2006
- Island Beneath the Sea (La isla bajo el mar) – 2010
- Maya’s Notebook (El Cuaderno de Maya) – 2011
- Ripper (El juego de Ripper) – 2014
- The Japanese Lover (El amante japonés) – 2015
- In the Midst of Winter (Más allá del invierno) – 2017
- A Long Petal of the Sea (Largo pétalo de mar) – 2019
Isabel Allende: Memoirs
- Paula (Paula) – 1994
- Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (Afrodita) – 1998
- My Invented Country (Mi país inventado) – 2003
- The Sum of Our Days (La suma de los días) – 2008
The Soul of a Woman: Isabel Allende’s New Book
Still working at age 78, Isabel Allende has released her latest book, The Soul of a Woman (Mujeres del alma mía) in November 2020.
Available both in English and Spanish, this book is a reflection on womanhood, feminism and sexuality throughout her personal history: From being the daughter of a single mother providing for three children, to being a journalist for a women’s issues magazine in the 1960s, to be politically persecuted during Pinochet’s coup, to living through three marriages and becoming a mother a grandmother, and finally a very successful woman in a male-dominated field.
She definitely has a lot to say on the subject!