Isabel Allende: immigrants enrich a country


The new novel from Isabel Allende tells the story of Refugees who came after the Spanish civil war to Chile. In a DW Interview, she talks about the timeliness of this story.

The Chilean writer Isabel Allende has sold worldwide, more than 74 million books in 42 languages. The last year has been for you full of intense personal and professional experiences: the death of their parents, the publication of her new novel, “This way” and a new marriage a few weeks ago. With the DW, she talked about her new book and her life, which is exactly like the plot of “This way” of Migration.

In exile: Watching

“I have lived as a Displaced person,” she says in reference to her Childhood and youth as the daughter of a diplomat who went after the military coup in Chile to exile in Venezuela, before eventually settling in the United States. “It’s good to be in a strange environment when you write. It forces you to observe the world more attentive and listen,” she says.

The story of the ship “Winnipeg”, which was chartered in 1939 by the Poet Pablo Neruda to bring more than 2,000 Spanish Republicans after the civil war in Spain, to Chile, knows Allende ever since their youth. In their family there were friendships with immigrants who were to have arrived on the freighter.

The topic was “in the air”

“I had planned to write about the ‘Winnipeg’, but I began to feel the theme of Migration in the air, and it exists always. When they reached the gates of Europe, were the Refugees to the message. Also in the USA, where the Situation with Donald Trump has worsened considerably,” says Allende.

The cargo ship “Winnipeg” brought in 1939, more than 2000 Spanish refugees to Chile.

“Without it, I put my mind to it consciously, affect me these things, and reflected in the books. I have now written three Displaced persons”, she says and refers to “The Japanese lover” and “everlasting summer”.

Immigrants as a profit for a country

The author laments the attitude of “populist governments that create hatred and fear”. In the United States, which were themselves founded by immigrants, it breeds at all times and groups that were discriminated against, like today for example, Latinos. “But once a Person is assimilated, contributes much to society and is a win-win for the country”.

The history of the Spanish refugees of the “Winnipeg” confirm you in this opinion, so Allende. It had given strong resistance against them on the part of the Catholic Church and the Conservatives, from fear of the “Communist, anarchist, liberals, and atheist” refugees. “She integrated quickly, and were immediately a part of the country. Their contribution is extraordinary,” says Isabel Allende.

Conversations with contemporary witnesses

Sometimes I stumble across a story in which I have nothing to invent. Everything is there, I must write it down,” says the author. So it was with “This way”. In their exile in Venezuela, many decades after the Atlantic travel to the “Winnipeg”, met Isabel Allende Victor Pey, who inspired one of the protagonists of the novel. The engineer and Journalist Pey was one of the ship’s refugees, became friends with Pablo Neruda and later with the Chilean President Salvador Allende.

“He was from the Generation of my parents, a very withdrawn man, almost mysterious, but we were good friends, and he told me of his Odyssey, from the civil war, of his escape and of his second escape after the military coup in Chile in 1973. The story of the main character in the novel runs in a circular pattern, just like the life of Pey. “It appears to be a deliberate literary ploy, but it really happened that way,” she says. Thousands of Victims of the Repression have left Chile after the military coup, as had happened 40 years earlier in Spain. Pey died last October at the age of 103 years, only six days before Isabel could Allende have to send it to him, dedicated to him the manuscript.

The Role Of Pablo Neruda’s

Another important figure in the novel, Pablo Neruda, whose efforts as a Chilean Consul in Paris made it possible for the Spanish refugees to flee to Chile. The original title of the novel in the Spanish language (“Largo pétalo de mar”) based on a poem by Pablo Neruda. “The work of Pablo Neruda’s accompanied me on all my travels. Most of my books were written in the United States, where I live, and in English reading. Neruda gives me the opportunity to use the language and the landscapes of Chile, to awaken”.

The Spanish-language title of Isabel Allende’s new novel refers to a Verse by Pablo Neruda

Allende also commented on the allegations on the part of feminist groups, Neruda had been a Macho and violent. She was of the view that “the plant may not be according to the private life of the Creator evaluated”. The literary work become a heritage of humanity, and who have always created it, it could be a failed human being, like all of us, it can be, so Allende.

Listen instead of judging

As in her previous novels, there is also in her new book, strong protagonists. In this case, there is a pianist that came with the refugee ship to Chile, and Dean of a music school. “I know so many brave and virtuous women, that it is no trouble for me to write about them,” says Allende, and refers to the Foundation, which primarily supports women and children in the Latino Community in California financially.

A successful Integration, as was achieved with the Refugees of “Winnipeg” in Chile, requires the removal of prejudices against migrants. “It’s about looking them in the eye, to hear your story and to open up to you. Why has the Stranger anxiety? The Problem is not resolved by closing borders, or the construction of a wall, but by improving the living conditions of the people in their home countries”.

The novel “This way”, which will be published with the 80. Anniversary of the arrival of the “Winnipeg” falls in Chile, has just been translated into German. Isabel Allende will introduce the book at the end of October on a reading tour in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. “The German reader, I have always considered extremely loyal to it. I owe you a tremendous gratitude.”


Isabel Allende: “This way”, translated by Svenja Becker, 381 pages, is on 27.07. in the case of Suhrkamp published.

The conversation was led by a man Victoria then.