Goddess du Jour: Isabel Allende

by butterfly on August 10, 2011

Isabel Allende was born in Peru and raised in Chile. She worked as as journalist until she began writing fiction. Her first novel, The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus) (1982), was made into a film.

When Isabel Allende worked as a journalist, she wrote an interview with Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet. Neruda, during the interview, told her that she had “too much imagination to be a journalist” and suggested that she become a novelist.

I have admired Isabel Allende’s writing, having read The House of the Spirits, Portrait in Sepia, and my favorite, Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses.

“Erotica is using a feather,

pornography is using the whole chicken.”

I have loved Isabel Allende’s writings because she weaves such intricate threads with her words into tapestries of stories. Layer upon layer, the emotions and fragments of beauty come through like sunlight through a stained glass window, creating colors and shadows, and nothing is purely sunny nor is it dark. Her feminine intuition and wisdom comes through, as a deeper understanding of people as human beings.

Even her translation of love and eroticism within fiction has human frailties and passion within the pages.

Imagine how excited I was to find this erotic passage written by Isabel Allende in a Penguin Book of Erotic Stories by Women:

Our Secret (1989)

“She let herself be caressed, drops of sweat in the small of her back, her body exuding the scent of burnt sugar, silent, as if she divined that a single sound could nudge its way into memory and destroy everything, reducing to dust this instant in which he was a person like any other, a casual lover she had met that morning, another man without a past attracted to her wheat-coloured hair, her freckled skin, the jangle of her gypsy bracelets, just a man who had spoken to her in the street and begun to walk with her, aimlessly, commenting on the weather and the traffic, watching the crowd, with the slightly forced confidence of her countrymen in this foreign land, a man without sorrow and anger, without guilt, pure as ice, who merely wanted to spend the day with her, wandering through bookstores and parks, drinking coffee, celebrating the chance of having met, talking of old nostalgias, of how life had been when both were growing up in the same city, in the same barrio, when they were fourteen, you remember, winters of shoes soggy from frost, and paraffin stoves, summers of peach trees, there in the now-forbidden country. Perhaps she was feeling a little lonely, or this seemed an opportunity to make love without complications, but, for whatever reason, at the end of the day, when they had run out of pretexts to walk any longer, she had taken his hand and led him to her house. She shared with other exiles a sordid apartment in a yellow building at the end of an alley filled with garbage cans. Her room was tiny: a mattress on the floor covered with a striped blanket, bookshelves improvised from boards stacked on two rows of bricks, books, posters, clothing on a chair, a suitcase in the corner. She removed her clothes without preamble, with the attitude of a little girl eager to please. He tried to make love to her. He stroked her body patiently, slipping over her hills and valleys, discovering her secret routes, kneading her, soft clay upon the  sheets, until she yielded, and opened to him. Then he retreated, mute, reserved. She gathered herself, and sought him, her head on his belly, her face hidden, as if constrained by modesty, as she fondled him, licked him, spurred him. He tried to lose himself; he closed his eyes and for a while he let her do as she was doing, until he was defeated by sadness, or shame, and pushed her away. They lighted another cigarette. There was no complicity now; the urgent anticipation that had united them during the day was lost, and all that was left were two vulnerable people lying on a mattress, without memory, floating in the terrible vacuum of unspoken words. When they had met that morning they had had no extraordinary expectations, they had no particular plan, only companionship, and a little pleasure, that was all, but at the hour of their coming together, they had been engulfed by melancholy. We’re tired, she smiled, seeking excuses for the desolation that had settled over them. In a last attempt to buy time, he took her face in his hands and kissed her eyelids.”

This erotic passage read beautifully to me. It shows two people as erotic and human. There is no idealization of the erotic, no fixation of body parts or intentions. The passage felt beautiful, melancholy, and real.

The book I love of Isabel Allende’s the most is Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses.

“I repent of my diets, the delicious dishes rejected out of vanity, as much as I lament the opportunities for making love that I let go by.” ~ Isabel Allende

Aphrodite‘s non-linear form is a melting sensual pot of her romantic and culinary recollections. She blends in her stories like a chef in the kitchen, adding spices and herbs. The book has recipes, erotic excerpts, mythology, poetry, travel notes and stories, and aphrodisiacs. Aphrodite is “a mapless journey through the regions of sensual memory, in which the boundaries between love and appetite are so diffuse that at times they evaporate completely.”

“Appetite and sex are the great motivators of history … All of creation is one long interrupted cycle of digestion and fertility.” ~Isabel Allende

In Aphrodite, Isabel celebrates the aphrodisiacs of many dishes with given recipes and sensual suggestions for their uses. Caviar, for instance, is “the supreme stimulus for lechery” and tells the tales of caviar and its sordid history. When cooking omelets, like making love, “affection counts for more than technique.”

Allende describes her dream of swimming in a pool of creamy arroz con leche, her favorite dessert. She gives her precious recipe for the soul food of rice pudding at the finale of her book. She suggests that we can slather it on a loved one, and slowly lick it off. She notes that, in this instance, the calories would be justified.

Sensuality and food is explored, revered, and celebrated in this saucy book of erotica excerpts, personal stories, aphrodisiac ingredients, and orgies are mentioned along with possible menus for such decadent events.

Isabel Allende’s Works

  • The House of the Spirits (1982) La casa de los espíritus
  • The Porcelain Fat Lady (1984) La gorda de porcelana
  • Of Love and Shadows (1985) De amor y de sombra
  • Eva Luna (1987) Eva Luna
  • The Stories of Eva Luna (1989) Cuentos de Eva Luna
  • The Infinite Plan (1991) El plan infinito
  • Paula (1995) Paula
  • Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (1998) Afrodita
  • Daughter of Fortune (1999) Hija de la fortuna
  • Portrait in Sepia (2000) Retrato en sepia
  • City of the Beasts (2002) La ciudad de las bestias
  • My Invented Country: A Memoir (2003) Mi país inventado
  • Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004) El reino del dragón del oro
  • Zorro (2005) El Zorro: Comienza la leyenda
  • Forest of the Pygmies (2005) El bosque de los pigmeos
  • Ines of My Soul (2006) Inés del alma mía
  • The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir (2008) La suma de los días
  • The Island Beneath the Sea (2010) “La isla bajo el mar”
  • “El Cuaderno de Maya” (2011)
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Woman August 11, 2011 at 3:31 am

So THAT is the book I read a long while ago!!!


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