Have you ever read the translation of an author’s work and had a strong desire to read it in the original? One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez, for me, was that book. During a three-year period I read the book three times, listened to audio tapes in Spanish, and intensely studied the language, building on the years I learned basic Spanish in intermediate school and high school, for the sole purpose of reading this great book in the original language it was written. In fact, when I was courting my wife, whose first language is Spanish, I gave her a copy of Cien años de soledad to read, since it’s my favorite book by a Latin American author. With my understanding of the book (through three readings), I was able to read, follow, and appreciate the story in Spanish. One may wonder why I am mentioning a male author in Women’s History Month.
I am mentioning Gabriel García Márquez today for two reasons: one, today, March 6th, is the anniversary of Márquez’ death; and two, the mere mention of his name in a New York Times book review, introduced me to this writer, Isabel Allende.
In the Times book review of her first book, The House of the Spirits (1982), there was a reference to Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. If an author is mentioned in the same sentence as Márquez, then I am going to read her. So, my book recommendation today is Allende’s The House of the Spirits. If the surname sounds familiar, her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973.
Isabel Allende is a great woman writer to uplift this Women’s History Month, in that, “Her history of oppression [as a woman] and liberation is thematically found in much of her fiction, where women contest the ideals of patriarch leaders.”
Having been mentioned in the same breath as Gabriel García Márquez, considered the most influential writer in Spanish since Cervantes, Isabel Allende has been called “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author.”
During Black History Month, I mentioned a couple of Black women writers, storytellers in the tradition of Scheherazade. Allende is also among that group of great storytellers.