This special event with one of literature’s most enchanting storytellers is presented by Manchester Literature Festival in partnership with the Centre for New Writing and Creative Manchester, and marks the start of MLF’s programme in 2020 (more here; the full festival runs 2-18 October this year) and the ushering in of a brand-new decade. One of Latin America’s greatest authors, and apparently the world’s most widely read Spanish language writer, Isabel Allende is making her first visit to the UK in 12 years, and this is an opportunity to hear her in conversation with our very own Jeanette Winterson, author and Professor of New Writing at The University of Manchester.
Born in Peru in 1942, raised in Chile and exiled to Venezuela, Isabel Allende is the author of 24 bestselling books – 20 novels and four works of non-fiction – including Daughter Of Fortune and City Of The Beasts and, most recently, In The Midst Of Winter, which came out in 2017. Her work has been translated into 42 languages and she is the recipient of over 60 awards including the 2018 National Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement.
But it was her magical realism-tinged debut that blew us away as teenagers, published in Spanish in 1982 and translated into English in 1985, reaching us the same year that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale hit the shelves. The House Of Spirits was the accidental by-product of a letter Allende had written to her 99-year-old grandfather in 1981, while she was working as a journalist in Caracas in Venezuela and received the news that he was near death. The letter, through which she had hoped to “keep him alive, at least in spirit”, evolved into the book, which in turn aimed to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship of Chile, from which she had fled after receiving death threats.
One of Latin America’s greatest authors, and apparently the world’s most widely read Spanish language writer, Isabel Allende is making her first visit to the UK in 12 years
Thirty-eight years on, and Allende is celebrating the publication of her 20th novel, A Long Petal Of The Sea, from which she will read extracts as well as chat about her work to Jeanette Winterson, whose own debut Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, won the 1985 Whitbread Prize for a First Novel (it was a busy year!).
Informed by the lives of her own friends and relatives, Isabel Allende’s new novel A Long Petal Of The Sea is described as “a masterful work of historical fiction about home and belonging, hope and sorrow” that creates “a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations”. Starting in 1939 at the end of the Spanish Civil War, when half a million refugees escaped Franco by walking from Spain to France, the story follows a young doctor and his sister-in-law as they navigate the turmoil and displacement, and sees them move from Europe to Chile then on to Venezuela.
You can purchase a ticket for the event along with a signed copy of A Long Petal Of The Sea in advance at the special price of £25 (event ticket only is £12).